Spare a thought for Irom Chanu Sharmila.
Irom Chanu Sharmila is in her late 30’s and is a poetess from the troubled state of Manipur. Ten years have passed since she declared a fast. The fast was a spontaneous reaction to the Malom Massacre.On 2nd November, 2000, 10 people including an old woman and some teenagers, waiting at a bus stand, were killed by the soldiers of the 8 Assam Rifles. Within 3 days of her fast, she was arrested on the grounds of “attempted suicide”. She has been force fed vitamins, nutrients via a nasal drip under custody and has been in and out of jail for the past ten years. Ten years of precious life has been sacrificed for just one agenda- repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA) from the North East!
Meanwhile, there have been countless other protests, more rapes of women, and who knows how many more cases of abuse by the armed forces. The rape and killing of Manorama Devi in 2004 by the soldiers of 8 Assam Rifles triggered one of the more infamous protests in the form of a rally of naked middle-aged women, protesting against the atrocities of the armed forces. The Jeevan Reddy commission report which recommended a repeal of the AFSPA has been swept under the carpet very conveniently. The politicians and the government are such an apathetic class. Not a single politician has taken account of the peaceful protest by Irom Sharmila apart from tokenism, nor have they shown any conviction towards addressing the core issue of oppression against one’s own people.
Who cares about some random Manipuri on a fast for 10 years? What does it really take to be heard in our country? If the highest form of Satyagraha does not work in the country of Gandhi, what will work? And if the government takes a piecemeal approach towards dissolving the AFSPA, would it really serve the purpose?
On a day when a minority in the country is celebrating the “Festival of Lights”, I can only spare a thought for the darkness in the life of the determined Irom Sharmila and the countless other oppressed people in their own country.