E-Pao! Profile Feature - Kim Gangte

Kim Gangte
Manipur's first woman MP

By: Thingnam Anjulika Samom *

Kim Gangte reminds one of the murmuring streams rushing through the hills and dale. Calm and peaceful on the surface, but full of activity. Always on the move, always agile, always busy - her caring nature, the dedication and preciseness with which she executes her work make her one of the best in her field.

Kim Gangte is a social worker, human rights activist and politician. The first woman from Manipur to become a Member of the Indian Parliament, her story is one of hard work, struggle and suffering.

Kim was born at Gangpibul village in Henglep constituency of Churachandpur district of Manipur. Her father Vumkhosei Gangte had received his early education in Shillong, but couldn't continue his studies, and hence remained a farmer.

Kim's mother Kimsi Sitlhou is illiterate, but like all pious Christian reads the Bible. Though beset with extreme hardships, both struggled to give the best of education to their seven surviving children. Their first two sons having expired in childhood, Kim was in a way their eldest child.

She was sent to the Seventh Day Adventists' School at Shillong for her high schooling. After that, she gave her higher secondary exam as a private student in Manipur, for Kim started teaching in a school right after her matric. This job she continued till the end of college.

After the completion of her graduation under Gauhati University in English, History and Education, she did her Masters and M. Phil in English literature at Pune University. While attending her MPhil classes, she worked as a lecturer in English at the Spicer Memorial College, Pune.

In the summer of 1988 Kim returned to Manipur and worked as a lecturer. She then went to the 'Institute of English and Foreign Languages', Osmania University, Hyderabad for a course in English language teaching.

Coming back, she continued her work as a lecturer in English language teaching in the State Council of Education and Research Training (SCERT) Centre in Imphal.

At the same time, she also joined the All India Radio (AIR) Imphal, English Programme (Western Music) as a part time announcer while also working as a correspondent with the Eastern Panoroma magazine.

However, Kim's heart started straying in another direction. The violence and bloodsheds in the State both as a result of inter-communal clash as well as between the security forces and the people started affecting her teaching.

"From Class I onwards I had studied outside and during my stay outside, my homeland, my heart was full of nostalgia always for Manipur. I was always proud of the heritage, the culture, even the mere mention of my state and I longed for the day when I can return home to stay.

But when I ultimately came back, the rosy image, in my mind, my dreams were all shattered; there was killing and blood everywhere, in the hills and in the valley", she narrates, adding, "I was so hurt that I can't even begin to express".

Finding that she could no longer concentrate on her teaching as the urge to contribute to the welfare of the people grew, Kim resigned from her job as lecturer at SCERT at the end of 1995.

"My friends asked me if I was crazy. It is so hard to get even a peon's job in Manipur and I'm throwing a lecturer's job. But in my heart I knew I had to take that step, knowing full well also that the path before me would be full of obstacles, hardship and toil", she recalled.

"I was fully convinced that I had to sacrifice my life and my future for the people. I then continued my work at the grassroots level at a greater scale with the poor masses - talking to them, laughing with them, weeping with them and writing about them", she said.

Kim started working with human rights groups and students' organisation. "Now after my resignation from the Government job, I was free and engaged fully to the cause I loved - serving the masses and there was no going back," she explained.

"There was so much suffering, so many problems that we were lost as how to solve them. We gave so many memorandum, so many applications, but it was like facing a stone wall. Across the mountains, no one knew our cries or heard our meanings and groanings" she added.

Deciding maybe a political career would help in her work, Kim stood for MP election in 1996 as an Independent candidate, but was defeated.

Seventeen months later the Parliament was dissolved and fresh elections held in 1998. This, she contested on a CPI ticket and with the blessings of her people won herself a seat in the Lok Sabha from the Outer Manipur Parliamentary Constituency. However, when the NDA Govt at the Centre too fell after 11 months in power, fresh elections were held again.

During the next round of elections held in 1999 and again in 2004, Kim Gangte had to taste the bitterness of defeat yet again. However defeat has only strengthened her resolve to work harder for the cause of the people.

"I started life as a social worker at the grassroots level. It doesn't make much difference if I am defeated. I'm now back at the grassroots level - working personally with the people I love, keeping myself always working and busy", she said.

Kim has been involved for more than a decade with the activities of the Kuki Women Human Rights body as well the Kuki Students' Organisation.

She is also the founder secretary of AWARD, and organisation working for the betterment of women in rural areas of the state. She was also a member of the National Police Academy Board.

"But my main achievement is as a social worker. MP- anyone can become. There were many who have sacrificed for the sake of the people, I'm one of them" she said.

Thingnam Anjulika Samom wrote this article for The Sangai Express . You can contact the writer at thingnam(at)yahoo(dot)com . This article was webcasted on December 22nd, 2006

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