We find the punishment of Khongoinaba in the 16th Century entries of Cheitharol Kumpapa. Scholars have said that this punishment is awarded to women for committing crimes such as the murder of husband, abortion or stealing children. James Johnstone, in his book Manipur and the Naga Hills, states that the convicted woman is stripped to the waist, her breast painted red (most probably lime and turmeric mixture) and tied with a rope around the waist and paraded in the market with people shouting, “come and look at this naughty woman !” These acts have continued for long in Manipur. Now, with smart phones and high speed internet, there is a new add-on to this age-old practice. We now record the videos and circulate the videos of Khongoinaba in the social media. There have been videos of the organizations on “restaurant drives” in the social media with shocking vulgar images of women condemned to violence and stripping for defying social norms. Recently, various incidents of Khongoinaba have surfaced on social media.
What sort of justice we are expecting when attempts are made to strip a woman forcefully and more importantly, for whom are we doing this. Or, it is just a punishment for violating social norms. Khongoinaba is a form of punishment that has been around for centuries in Manipur. Pothang, Lallup and amang-aseng and many more feudal practices have been discontinued but we still continue to hold on to Khongoinaba. We need to do away with this regressive form of punishment in our society as soon as possible, especially Leikai as an institution should not practice it at all, given that it is an age-old practice. The distinction between progressive and regressive should be made when the society acts through its organizations or a leikai as an institution chooses to do certain things. The feudal patriarchal punishment needs to be done away with if we are moving towards a mannaba khunnai. This punishment reflects the feudal patriarchal norm that society should violate a woman as a punishment for breaking the social norm. It has nothing to do with the question of justice. This form of punishment is only based on retribution. We need to take such regressive measures from our understanding of justice.
Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup Phenomena
When we speak of regressive norms of justice prevailing in the society and its executions, one organisation comes to mind immediately which symbolizes the most regressive manner in which this society wants to deal with what it sees as a problem. In September 2O15, an allegation against an organisation called Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup surfaced in the social media. It is said that the organisation goes for “restaurant drive” and takes money from the people they catch in these drives. Khurai Lamlong Meira Paibi, Mothers’ association and Paragon Club raided the office of Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup at Khurai Lamlong Keithel and found the allegations true. Secretary of Mother’s Association at that time stated that no branch or office of this organisation would be allowed in Khurai given that this organisation is doing such things for earning money. In the month of May 2O18 another allegation against Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup surfaced in social media that the organisation along with people high on intoxicants are going for restaurant drive and have beaten up people with iron rods. A video of the incident also surfaced in the social media. ISTV also reported in December 2O18 that five members of this group faced arrest for abducting an ISTV journalist from a fast food and holding her for ransom. The TV channel also alleged that they attempted to kill her after finding out that she works in the news channel. The channel also reported that members of this organisation have faced arrests earlier also on similar matters.
Recently, a source reported that people who were earlier members of Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup came to Sagolband and tried settling a matter between a middle-aged man and a nupi manbi on behalf of the wife of the middle aged man. They posed threats and tried to instill fear in the nupi manbi. Afterwards, the members of Kanglei Chanura Kanba Lup asked for money from those who attended the meeting from the side of the nupi manbi.
The practice of Khongoinaba and extortion in the name of saving the culture of society points to serious ills in this society and it indicates that we are still carrying forward regressive norms from the past which must be forgotten if we are seeking for society devoid of oppression and exploitation. The task is not to give way for the strengthening of the foreign norms but to have more reflection on the norms which were born in our land. We need to weed out the regressive and pick the progressive in these indigenous norms.
Cecil Thounaojam has been a freelance writer for Imphal Times and currently working as an in-house journalist for Imphal Times. He has completed MBA and worked as a copywriter for 5+ years in digital advertising agencies. Cecil is from Nongmeibung, Imphal East and he can be contacted at [email protected]
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