Meira Paibi

Meira Paibi (Women torch bearers) is a women's social movement in the Indian state of Manipur. Referred to as the "guardians of civil society", Meira Paibi dates to 1977 in present Kakching district. It derives its name from the flaming torches which the women carry while marching through city streets, often at night. They do so both as a patrol, and in protest, seeking redress against human rights violations committed by paramilitary and armed forces units against the innocent. Contextualized, Meira Paibi was founded at a time when the people of Manipur were fighting for self-determination, political autonomy, and independence.

According to The Times of India, Meira Paibi is the "largest grassroots, civilian movement fighting state atrocities and human rights violations in Manipur". One of the movement's leaders, A. K. Janaki Leima, says that "We've been fighting against drug abuse, crimes against women, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). We will continue to fight these".


Meira Paibi was established in 1977 in Kakching, kakching district, Manipur, India. Meira Paibis are the women "guardians of civil society" and they carry flaming torches and march through city streets, frequently at night doing a 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 movement evolved at a time when the people of Manipur were fighting for self-determination, political autonomy, and independence.[1][2][3]

Predecessor movementsEdit

Nupi lanEdit

Women's social movements in Manipur date to British rule. Two such movements, collectively known as Nupi lan (Women's War; Women's Uprising),[4] preceded Meira Paibi. The first one dates to 1904 when women of the Imphal valley protested against the Assistant Superintendent of British authority in Manipur because of his directive to collect teak wood from Kabas to build his house. The women who protested were neighbors in the locality. British authorities brought forces from outside the state to end this women's protest.[5] A second movement occurred in 1939 as protest to forced rice exportation which was causing starvation among the local people.[6] Women, nearly 99% of them, protested peacefully, submitting a petition to the Durbar (government authority). The movement forced closure of rice mills and eventually proved successful in halting the exportation of rice.[5] Nupi Lan became the forerunner in introducing reforms in the state after World War II.[7] 12 December is observed annually by Meira Paibi as "Women's War Day" commemorating the events of 1939.[6]

Nisha BandisEdit

The Nisha Bandis women's movement developed in the late 1970s. Its origins are attributed to Meitei women's activism combating alcoholism and drug addiction.[6] The women held night marches in the streets of Imphal and elsewhere in Manipur carrying lanterns, chastising the intoxicated, and setting fire to liquor shops. Their actions lead to the introduction of prohibition laws in the state.[3] The late 1970s was a period of civil unrest,[8] which established an underground insurgency movement in Manipur. The Armed Forces Special Powers Assam and Manipur Act 1958 permitted paramilitary forces and the police to use unlimited power in dealing with insurgency, resulting in the arrest, torture, and deaths of many innocent young people. The Nisha Bandis became socially active with vigilante activities, protests and marches through the streets of Imphal and elsewhere in the state.[5][8]


"The Manipuri story indicates that active participation by women in public affairs can and does contribute to better conditions for children and society at large". -UNICEF[1]

The Nisha Bandis carried podons (large-wicked kerosene lamps)[9] and laltain (Hindi, lantern) but after switching to flaming torches, they became known as Meira Paibi.[10] The Meitei women torch bearers represented the declaration of a just war defending human rights in Manipur.[7] Their movement has expanded to hold "public meetings, demonstrations, road closures and public bandhs or shut down of all essential services, hunger strikes and mass rallies."[7] These women, also known as "women vigilantes", stopped army vehicles, rescued innocent youth who were apprehended on false charges, and negotiated their transfer to the police. The Army did not protest as they respected the role of Meitei women in just causes.[6] The Meira Paibi's movement has become known as the third Nupi Lan.[10]


Times of India awarded the "TOI Social Impact Awards: Lifetime contribution" to Meira Paibi and its five leaders, the 83-year-old Thokchom Ramani, Ak Janaki Leima, L Memchoubi Devi, Y Leirik Leima, and Purnimashi Leima.[3] These five women -known as "imas" or mothers- take an aggressive posture by lowering their traditional phanek (floral embroidered Meitei sarong), tie it with a cloth belt (khwang chet), and cover their shoulders with the formal phi (embroidered phanek). They also tie a piece of cloth over their head in the form of a turban. They carry the flaming torch as a symbol of their feminist movement supporting human rights and peace.[3]Uday awarded the Struggle of Meira Paibi Their fought for the struggle using torch. Many named it with many names but it was Meira Paibi's Movement.

Film on Meira PaibiEdit

A short documentary film on Meira Paibi was made in 2018. The film titled, Fireflies is directed by Johnson Rajkumar.[11]The film focuses on an underrated women’s social movement active in Manipur. Appreciated both by movie buffs and critics, the 6-minute documentary explores the role of women in the conflict-ridden, male-dominated society of Manipur.[12]The film articulates the journey of Meira Paibi, a women’s social movement in Manipur, in their struggles to protect the community from atrocities committed by the state.Through powerful testimonies, the film looks into how gender identities are negotiated during times of conflict and violence. [13]

The film has got both national and international appreciation. The film had won Best Short Documentary in Arthouse Asia International Film Festival, Kolkata and won second place in short documentary section in Chennai International Short Film Festival.The film had also been selected in several international and national film festivals including Golden Tree International Documentary Film Festival in Frankfurt, Dada Saheb Phalke International Film Festival in Mumbai, Davis Feminist Film Festival in California and Human Rights Short Film Festival in Dhaka, Bangladesh.[14] Excerpts from the film: Fireflies

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b Thangjom, Lalzo S. (October 2013). "The Role of MEIRA PAIBI in Bringing about Social Change in the Manipuri Society: An Analysis". Journal of Social Welfare & Management. 5 (4): 235. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  2. ^ Parratt 2005, p. 157.
  3. ^ a b c d Sunil, Oinam (10 January 2013). "TOI Social Impact Awards: Lifetime contribution — Meira Paibi". Times of India. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  4. ^ Thomas 2011, p. 168.
  5. ^ a b c Karna 1998, pp. 77–80.
  6. ^ a b c d Laithangbam, Iboyaima (4 November 2014). "Women vigilantes of Manipur". The Hindu.
  7. ^ a b c "Is the Meira Paibi Movement Facing Extinction?". The Sangai ExpRess. 15 September 2013. Archived from the original on 11 March 2016. Retrieved 10 March 2016.
  8. ^ a b Malindog, Anna (2 December 2014). "The Role of Women in Self-Determination Movements". Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  9. ^ Thomas, Gopalakrishnan & Singh 2001, p. 90.
  10. ^ a b Nepram, Binalakshmi (9 January 2005). "A Narrative on the Origin of the Meira Paibis". E-Pao. Retrieved 12 March 2016.
  11. ^ Fireflies 2018, retrieved 14 March 2020
  12. ^ "Manipuri Activist Makes Documentary on Meira Paibis".
  13. ^ EastMojo, Team. "Manipuri documentary 'Fireflies' screened at Kathmandu film fest". EastMojo. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  14. ^ EastMojo, Team. "Manipuri documentary 'Fireflies' screened at Kathmandu film fest". EastMojo. Retrieved 14 March 2020.