by Elton Gomes
Binalakshmi Nepram, a rights activist from Manipur who has been supporting women survivors of violence in northeast India, has been conferred with the Reach All Women in WAR (RAW in WAR) Anna Politkovskaya Award.
Nepram is the joint recipient of the award along with Belarusian journalist and Nobel literature laureate Svetlana Alexievich.
Nepram and Alexievich were awarded the Anna Politkovskaya Award for their bravery in speaking out against injustice, violence, and extremism. They were lauded for their role in their respective conflict-ridden regions of Manipur and Belarus.
The RAW in War award is awarded annually to mark the anniversary of Anna Politkovskaya’s murder on October 7, 2006. Politkovskaya was a Russian journalist, writer, and human rights activist. Her work involved extensive reporting on political developments in Russia, particularly the second Chechen war that extended from 1999 to 2005.
Politkovskaya was arrested by military forces in Chechnya and was even subject to a mock execution. She was assassinated in the elevator of her block of flats on October 7, 2006.
Nepram shares award with Svetlana Alexievich
Nepram’s co-winner is Svetlana Alexievich, who won the 2015 Nobel Prize for Literature for her portrayal of the lives of Soviet women during World War Two. Alexievich has also documented the impact of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the Soviet military adventure in Afghanistan. Alexievich lived in exile for several years due to her criticism of the Belarusian government, but returned home in 2011.
Who is Binalakshmi Nepram?
Binalakshmi Nepram is a writer from the Manipur and a human rights defender on the Indo-Myanmar border. In 2007, Nepram launched the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network. The Network helped over 20,000 female survivors of gun violence rebuild their lives and strive for justice.
She started the group after seeing the fallout of the killing of a 27-year-old man in a village in southern Manipur, who left behind his young wife Rebika Akham. Nepram helped Akham in purchasing a sewing machine in order to make a living.
In 20014, Nepram co-founded the Control Arms Foundation of India (CAFI), an civil society organization that opposed militarization and worked towards disarmament.
Nepram said that the work done by the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network has extended beyond helping those who have lost their fathers, husbands, and sons in the violence. The Network has now begun assisting women and girls who are raped and sexually assaulted in the ongoing conflict.
“Every day the violence continues unabated … with our region seeing some of the highest numbers of rape and women trafficked in the country,” she said. “In this conflict, a lot of girls and women are subjected to sexual abuse and there is a climate of impunity,” Reuters reported.
Why did Nepram choose to leave India?
Nepram believes that returning to India will endanger her life. She fears that she will meet the same fate as that of Gauri Lankesh, editor of Lankesh Patrike and co-winner of the 2017 Anna Politkovskaya Award. Lankesh was assassinated in September 2017 in Bengaluru, and the probe largely remains unresolved.
Currently living in the United States, Nepram said she had to leave India for her own security. She said, “I do not want to be a statistic in a body bag,” Reuters reported.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius