On July 15, 2004, twelve women, all in their sixties and seventies, positioned themselves in front of the gates of the Kangla Fort in Manipur, India--the headquarters of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian army. One by one, the women stripped themselves naked, holding banners aloft that read, "Indian Army Rape Us" and "Take Our Flesh." The mothers of Manipur did this to protest the custodial rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama, a 32-year-old woman, who was alleged by the army to be a militant. The soldiers were not the only ones who watched on, aghast--this iconic image was seen by hundreds of thousands of Indians across the country. The prevailing sentiment was, "Could a naked protest by Indian mothers really be happening?"
The Mothers of Manipur is the story of these twelve courageous imas of Manipur, who are known to be strong and self-sufficent and to run the economy of the state. The women had witnessed several decades of low-intensity war--sanctioned by the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958--and for them, the death of Manorama was the trigger for the ultimate act of protest. Journalist Teresa Rehman tells the story of these women--how they made their decision, how they carried it out, and how their lives changed in the aftermath. The Mothers of Manipur turns the trope of Indian women as merely the victims of violence on its head and reflects the larger history of a conflict-torn region, while detailing the courageous resistance of a people who faced overwhelming odds.