Md. Chingiz Khan, New Age Islam
21 May 2021
Against Pangal Women, Including Those Of Sexual Assault And Rape Have Risen
Many Folds In Recent Years
1. Crimes against Pangal women, including those
of sexual assault and rape have risen in recent years.
2. Many Muslims have argued that such will not
happen if Muslims start to follow the ‘true’ Islamic precepts.
3. Pangal women need a movement of their own,
which should singularly focus on gender rights and empowerment in order to
fight against this injustice.
Manipur are called Pangals. Crimes against Pangal women, including those of
sexual assault and rape have risen many folds in recent years. This is alarming
given the historical context of Manipur where such cases were very few in the
past. What explains this rise in crimes against Muslim women? Should it be
looked as a general trend across all communities or should we look for
explanations which are intrinsic to the community?
The case of Manorama’s rape and murder in 2014 brought this problem in Manipur into greater focus. That the gruesome act was committed by an army personnel made the case
into an advocacy for repealing AFSPA. But the sexual assault cases within the
Pangal community have not received much attention till now. Partly this is also
the result of the relative powerlessness of the Muslim community in Manipur
wherein their voices are seldom heard as compared to more dominant communities
such as the Meiteis.
2020, a Pangal girl from Thoubal district was allegedly raped, brutally
murdered and thrown into a roadside canal over some differences between the
victim and the accused Sheikh Warish. Then, in August, another minor Muslim
girl was raped while she went out for shopping. In the same month, another
minor was raped by murdered and was found lying along a road. In this case, it
seems that the girl eloped with the accused whose family refused to accept her.
Along with his friends, the accused raped the girl who later died of excessive
bleeding. While this case raised much consternation within the Muslim
community, the cases did not stop. Shortly thereafter, a 19-year-old girl, who
was pregnant, was raped and murdered and the accused in this case also is the
partner of the girl, a Muslim man.
While it is
heartening to note that in all these cases, arrests have been made and the
process of law is ongoing, yet sadly there is no debate within the community
over the issue. Mainly, such incidents are being treated as resulting from
personal ‘differences’ or a product of jealousy. In many instances, the women
themselves were blamed for bringing this upon themselves. The discussion within
the Muslim community is that girls should not venture outside after certain
hours and that too without male relatives. Many were of the opinion that if
they were following the true Islamic precepts, then such things would never
have occurred in the first place.
these are inadequate explanations which are designed to limit the freedom of
movement of Muslim girls. One such heinous crime was committed by a soon to be
husband thus within the protected space of the household. Cases of sexual
assault do not happen because women ‘venture out’ but can happen within intimate
spaces from ones’ relatives against whom there is no protection. There needs to
be open and frank discussion about such issues within the Manipuri Muslim
Behind The Solace Of Religion Is Not Going To Serve The Purpose
cause of the problem seems to be a lack of awareness and education as most of
the areas where such incidents happened are extremely backward areas in terms
of social indicators. Educationally, economically and socially, the Pangals are
the most disadvantaged community in Manipur. It is also extremely patriarchal
which restricts women’s freedom in strict sense of the term. The more worrying
part is that such Muslims think that these restrictions are mandated by their
religion. Moreover, there are lots of ‘token’ Muslim apologist intellectuals
among the Pangals of Manipur. These are people who normally do not do anything
to change the situation at the ground level. Such Muslims are present in many
Pangal civil society organizations as advisors and convenors and consider
themselves as ‘experts’ in every field of Manipuri Muslim society. They usually
participate in important events of the Pangal society as leaders and have an
all-knowing attitude. But clearly, the rises cases of crimes against Muslim
makes it apparent that such experts are ill equipped to handle such a crisis.
these intellectuals thrive on nepotism and partisanship. There is a need to get
rid of such intellectuals who do precious but line their own pockets in the
name of protecting the Muslim community. If the Muslim community has to compete
with other communities in Manipur, then these intellectuals must be made
need a Muslim women specific initiative in Manipur to combat such crimes. Such
a movement should be led by Muslim women and should forefront the issue of
sexual crimes within the larger framework of gender justice and empowerment. It
is surprising to note that despite Manipur having a rich and long tradition of
women’s involvement in socio-economic and political causes, there has not been
any gender-centric women’s movement. Specially for Muslim women, in a context
where cases of sexual violence against them is on the rise, there is an urgent
need for such a movement.
Chingiz Khan is a doctoral student at the Centre for Historical Studies,
Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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