Meira Paibis of Manipur (Women torch bearers): A Few Facts

The north-east state of Manipur is endowed with scenic beauty and inhabited by wonderful peace-loving people. The state is nowadays in the news because of unfortunate conflicts that too among the local residents who lived generation after generation blissfully and peacefully. Before highlighting a few points about the recent issues, I wish to mention some points about Manipur based on the secondary source, viz.,
It is pertinent to mention that the state has two major physiographic regions -the Manipur River valley and a large surrounding tract of mountainous country. The valley, encompassing around 1,787 square kilometres, runs north-south. Its main physical feature is Logtak Lake, which covers about 100 square kilometres and is the source of the Manipur River. The river flows southward through the valley into Myanmar, where it joins the Myittha River, a tributary of the Chindwin. The lake is really awesome when I visited the state some years ago. The hill ranges, linked by spurs and ridges, run north-south. These ranges include the Naga Hills to the north, the East Manipur Hills along the eastern Myanmar border, the Mizo and Chin Hills to the south and the West Manipur Hills to the west. Average elevations vary between 5,000 and 6,000 feet (1,500 and 1,800 metres), although the hills in the north rise above 9,500 feet (2,900 metres). In the west, the Surma River, known as the Barak River in Manipur, has cut a narrow steep-sided valley through the West Manipur Hills as it flows to join the Meghna River in Bangladesh. About the people of Manipur, it is pertinent to mention that the Meitei people represent around 53 percent of the population of Manipur, followed by various Naga ethnic groups at 24 percent and Kuki/Zomi tribes (also known as Chin-Kuki-Mizo people) at 16 percent. Agriculture and forestry are the primary sources of livelihood.
I had the opportunity to visit the state of Manipur from one corner to another on a few occasions and interacted with all sections of people and observed the people were peace-loving and friendly with the guests and outsiders. Almost all the women still today know weaving and in their kitchen gardens varieties of fruits and vegetables are grown mainly by the women. Also, the women of Manipur come forward in a group for any social issue particularly to address the issue (s) which is known as Meira Paibi/s (Women torch bearers). Based on Wikipedia it may be mentioned that Meira Paibis (Women torch bearers) is a women’s social movement in Manipur. Meira Paibi was established in 1977 in Kakching, Kakching district of Manipur. The women activists carry flaming torches and march through city streets, frequently at night doing patrol duty, and as a way of protest for seeking redress against human rights violations committed by paramilitary and armed forces units against the innocent ( The Manipuri Dance, also known as the ‘Manipuri Raas Leela’, is one of the eight major Indian classical dance forms, originating from Manipur. Anyway, in 2004, the Meira Paibis stunned the world by stripping naked outside a military camp in the capital, Imphal protesting against a rape case. A few days ago, Soutik Biswas, a Correspondent for BBC presented that “Ethnic violence continues to roil Manipur, nearly two months after clashes between the majority Meitei and tribal Kuki communities left more than 100 dead and displaced some 60,000. This is despite the presence of tens of thousands of security forces in the valley, inhabited primarily by the Meitei community, as well as in the hills, home to the Kukis”. Also as per Biswas report, “A recently shared video by the Indian army from the violence-wracked north-eastern state of Manipur captured a dramatic sequence of scenes. The two-minute 14-second footage shows unarmed women confronting soldiers on a busy street. Aerial shots show women gathering around an excavator on a disrupted road, a bustling mix of SUVs, cars, an ambulance speeding along a scenic valley route, and glimpses of agitated women” (
I hope Kuki, Meitei, and also other communities as usual will live peacefully and blissfully. I humbly request all groups of Meira Paibis ( whom I as a very senior citizen consider as my sisters), politicians, NGOs, civil societies, and others to promote peace and tranquillity among the people by setting aside politics and other differences. Killing, arson, damage to properties, displacement of people, etc, are against humanity. We are all brothers and sisters. I remember the phrase Vasudeva Kutumbakam – sometimes spelt Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam which means “the world is one family.”

Prof Shankar Chatterjee, Hyderabad

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