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To Hell With Patriarchy! Manipur Gets First Muslim Woman Candidate

The first Muslim woman candidate of Manipur is denied a ‘kabr’ for contesting the elections. 

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For Najima Bibi it is the fear of being alive that matters more than the fear of dying. The ‘maulavis’ or the Muslim clerics in her village have threatened her of denying a ‘kabr’ or grave for contesting the assembly elections in Manipur. But she just doesn’t care whether she’ll get a final resting place in her village when she’s dead.

Najima is the candidate of PRJA (Peoples Resurgence and Justice Alliance), the Irom Sharmila-led party which is contesting from ten seats in Manipur. She’s contesting from Wabgai in Thoubal district.

Najima Bibi, the PRJA candidate from Wabgai constituency in Manipur (Photo: The Quint)

From being the only girl in her class and the first girl in the family to complete her Xth standard amidst the taunts and harassment in the school, she has come a long way.

On being forced to get married as soon as she completed her Xth, Najima ran away from home and instead married a man she had only met twice. And that turned out to be a disaster. Her husband was abusive and she walked out of the marriage in six months – something that required a lot of courage.

After her divorce, she realised the importance of self-reliance and economic independence, she initiated an economic independence programme for the local women called ‘cheng marup’, a rice thrift fund. Since then, Najima has been actively involved in helping women and advocating about women's’ rights.

Najima Bibi with her supporters at the DC’s office in Thoubal, Manipur (Photo: The Quint)

In 2006, the ‘maulvis’ accused Najima of provoking the women in her village. They even banned all women self-help groups on religious grounds.

A fatwa was issued against her, her family was boycotted from social functions, they couldn’t even buy anything from the local shops.

When Irom Sharmila gave up her 16 years of fasting and decided to fight her battle against AFSPA with a new strategy, in a political sphere, Najima decided to stand shoulder to shoulder with her. This was also the best way to increase and expand the scope of her social work.

Najima with Irom Sharmila after filing her nomination at the DC’s office in Thoubal, Manipur (Photo: The Quint)

Will the first woman Muslim candidate be able to challenge the patriarchy in the state? Well, it is for the voters of Wabgai to decide if they want to support this feisty lady when they come out to vote on 8 March.

Cameraman: Tridip K Mandal
Multimedia Producer: Puneet Bhatia

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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