She Goes to War

By Rashmi Saksena

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Purnima had little choice but to go back to the dress she loathed. “I had to cross the Moreh post a number of times to recruit people, procure food and medicine and most importantly to arrange for money to run my camp. I pretended to be a petty trader to get past the checkpost.’ The disguise part was easier compared to arranging finances. “I would go to people doing government projects and demand a certain percentage in lieu of KCP protection.’ Even while intimidating people, extorting money and while recruiting, Purnima followed a simple rule. “I never raised my voice and always communicated in a direct straightforward manner. That is why they took me seriously when I told them of the consequences if they did not meet my demand.’ She speaks in the same calm manner when she tells me that “I have never been scared or tired or told a lie” under any situation.

She refused to tell a lie when she went to the house of a KCP renegade on orders from her senior. “When I called him outside his wife asked me what I wanted. I told her I had orders to kill him because he had betrayed the organization.’ The man was frightened out of his wits. He meekly stepped outside and started to walk with Purnima to a dark field. His weeping wife followed, pleading with Purnima to spare his life. When they reached the field “she flung herself in front to cover him. She told me to shoot her instead. My men tried to pull her away from him so that I could shoot him. In the scuffle her phenakcame undone. Her innaphi tore. She was naked but she did not care or even realize it. All she wanted was to save her husband. It struck me then how women want to save lives and here Iam, a woman,killing people without a thought.’

As the woman wept and pleaded, the mobile phone in Purnima’s pocket rang. “My commander wanted to know if I was done with the assassination.’ Purnima had changed in that one moment. She told a lie.”I fired in the air and told my senior that I had shot the man.’ She then told the man she had been sent to kill to run away with his wife and never be seen again in the area. She told her own men that if they ever sneaked on her she knew how to deal with them. “As I turned to leave I saw the man take off his sarong and cover his wife. She looked up at him with tearful eyes and said apologetically that she had not realized she was naked. For the first time I understood what love is and what wonders it can do.’

—Purnima, former member of the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), excerpted from ‘Manipur: Dancing with Death’.

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