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Transcript: Binalakshmi Nepram on Responding to Rising Armed Conflict in South Asia

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Here is the transcript of Binalakshmi Nepram’s — founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network — TEDx Talk: Responding to Rising Armed Conflict in South Asia at TEDxSecunderabad

Listen to the MP3 Audio here: Responding to Rising Armed Conflict in South Asia by Binalakshmi Nepram at TEDxSecunderabad

Binalakshmi Nepram — Founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivor Network

I wanted to be a Physicist. From Manipur I came to Delhi to do my Physics. I missed by 0.2%, ended up with Mathematics Honors and realized that it’s not going to be my cup of tea. So I switched to Indian History.

After doing five years of Indian History and then getting a Master’s degree, I realized there is not a single chapter of 45 million Indians living in Northeast region in the text books of our country. This is even after 60 years of Independent India. That is a reason the part of India that I come from continues to be in a state of war and of conflict for more than 60 years.

Now, our journey of why did — 50,000 people died in India’s Northeast, mind you 50,000 people died. South Asia’s first conflict is not in Afghanistan or in Pakistan where our friends are from in this room. It started from the epicenter off the northeast region, the first shots of insurgency were fired there and why was it fired because the kind of incomplete nation building, because the British succeeded in dividing all of us together with unnatural boundaries, also had its repercussions is India’s northeast region.

So what is happening right now is South Asia, the kind of thing as I said — first a little bit of South Asia, South Asia where again Hyderabad, Delhi, all these places, for us from Northeast South Asia is a bit far away. We’re still trying to grapple because things in that part of India are quite different from as it would be in Delhi or any other part of the country.

First is — so there is — we always think there is bomb blast in Pakistan, bombings in Afghanistan. It’s far away. This year in Manipur we had more than 32 bomb blasts; last year more than 60 plus bomb blasts. Yet the news from this part of India never reaches.

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The journey that we started in Manipur, we discovered that yes many of us in particular northeast region like we have, as I said, this is one of the worst militarized zones in the whole world. We’ve got 300,000 Indian Army on our soil. We have gotten an army law called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives any armed forces personnel the right to shoot, to kill anyone on mere charges of suspicion. That means if an Army jawan suspects you, they can shoot you dead and no law in the country will allow you to be prosecuted.

Is this fair? Is this fair? Very quiet. I thought so, because we look at the Indian Constitution which is a guiding principles for many of our works and we realize it’s a violation of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution which gives every Indian citizen the right to life. Isn’t it? Do you know our constitution well? One of the biggest constitutions in the world, it gives every Indians a right to life. Even in the Indian Constitution it says even before arrest, you have to produce a warrant. In Manipur, they don’t have to produce a warrant. They can come to your house at 3:00 in the morning, 12:00 in the night and shoot you, kill you, rape you. This is what is happening in our — one of the most beautiful parts of India, called the Northeast.

But my story is not just about Northeast. I’ll take you back and forth South Asia, because the discovery – that we discovered there is what I wanted to share with you in this TEDx Talk. For me, TED or no TED, life is about a community of people learning and sharing. OK, so I am here taking this opportunity coming all the way to your beautiful city, just to share a few of our learnings so that we join hands together.

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So what happens? In the Northeast we discovered, we realize — you know, there is a saying in English, in the darkness even the rope looks like a snake; Isn’t it? So what happens is the entire Northeast we discovered that why there is so much of violence? So we started investigating the reasons for this violence.

Conflict exists in our minds. Right now you must have thought, when you come here, what should I wear this morning? OK. Conflict is in our minds, it’s in our families. Tell me a family who doesn’t have conflict in this world? I have. Everyone has this. Nations have conflict. But the difference is — the only difference is because the world of technology has become so much that the lethality of when you have a gun in your hand, then it really wipes human life.

Can anyone in this audience tell me how much of rounds an AK-47 can fire a minute? In a minute, an AK-47 can fire in a minute how many rounds? How many rounds can a Kalashnikov which is very famous in all our Hindi films produce fire in a minute? 600. Imagine the lethality of a gunman walking into your shopping mall here, if they want they can shoot all of us in this room dead. It’s happening all the time. In Manipur, we discovered weapons from 13 countries flooding Manipur, Northeast India.

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