Update (on September 1, 2011): Personally, I do not favor complete removal of AFSPA. As the Army Chief mentioned some time ago, without this act it would be very difficult for the army to handle the situation in areas with unrest. However, this must not mean that the army can go rampaging and rape women and kill people at will. The government MUST address Irom Sharmila’s concerns while also keeping the security concerns in mind.
I have fully supported Anna Hazare and his anti-corruption campaign. Anna has been doing good social work since long —but only lately he has gained massive and worldwide recognition. Now all I ask from Anna is that he should make use of this recognition, opportunity and people’s power behind him to help Irom as well. A lady fasting for 11 years just to demand that the women are not raped by the army —isn’t it a matter worthy of consideration and quickest resolution?
Lots of people have supported Anna and anti-corruption crusade because everyone is affected by the demon of corruption. But just because Delhiites are not affected by AFSPA —should they become insensitive toward the plight of those who DO get affected by the misuse of this act?
Last week, everyone, from common man to the leader, was pleading Anna Hazare to end his fast. Newspapers were reporting Anna’s “vitals” on daily basis without fail. News channels were a step ahead, they were keeping the public abreast every time Anna’s heart beat. All efforts, medical as well as religious, were being made lest Anna would die of hunger.
In one of my recent articles, I wrote that the brand Anna was not a media creation. Instead it just spontaneously rose from the public psyche. But still, media played its role in sustaining Anna’s campaign and it made sure that the public remain interested until the goal was achieved. Anna Hazare camp, aka Team Anna, meticulously formulated their media strategy and executed it to the perfection.
But not all the crusaders are equally resourceful.
Irom Chanu Sharmila, 39 years, is one such activist whose fight has gone far too long without managing to gather enough attention. Far too long?… how long?… Well, Irom is on hunger strike for past 11 years. While Anna’s 13 day fast brought the government to knees –Irom’s struggle still seems far from getting over.
Irom Sharmila, often called the Iron Lady of Manipur, began her hunger strike on 2 November 2000 in protest of the rights violation by the Indian Armed Forces in Manipur and other northeastern states. She demanded that the government must repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) which confers the armed forces with special powers in the areas that have been declared as “disturbed”. These powers include shooting a law breaker –even causing his death, entering any premises for search without warrant and arrest and detain indefinitely any person who is deemed to be an offender by the forces.
It is reported that the armed forces have, more often than not, misused these powers. Irom began her fast after the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 people who were waiting at a bus stop. The incident took place in Malom, a town in Manipur.
After she began her fast, the police arrested Irom on charges of suicide attempt. Since then, she has been in judicial custody and police has been forcibly feeding her with liquids through a naso-gastric tube.
In last 11 years, Irom has not taken food or water.
I am feeling ashamed that I postponed writing about her. I intended to write about Irom’s struggle in March this year but could not manage to do so. I am sorry, Irom.
In my view, Anna Hazare should now go to Imphal and fast along with Irom Sharmila. Even better –he should sit on a fast in New Delhi to pressurize government to take note of Irom’s protest.
Irom cannot come to New Delhi and sit on fast in Ramlila Ground because she is in judicial custody. Would Anna occupy the Ground again… but this time for Irom Sharmila?
It has been in the news that Anna will go and see Irom after he is discharged from the Medanta Medicity hospital. But would just going there be sufficient? If Anna will not help Irom to bring her struggle to a successful end –I would see Anna’s going to Manipur purely as a publicity stunt. How much more publicity does Anna need?
India listened to Anna within a couple of weeks but Irom’s screams have been falling on deaf ears for long 11 years. Why?
- Is it because Irom is a woman?
- Is it because she belongs to Manipur, a northeastern state?
- Is it because she is far from the limelight of New Delhi?
- Is it because she wants a change that does not affect most on Indian population?
But ignoring injustice merely because it is happening in your neighbor’s house is imprudent. Today, if it is your neighbor; tomorrow it could be you!
Corruption is a national problem.
Misuse of AFSPA is a localized problem.
But so what? Misuse of AFSPA is STILL A PROBLEM.
Irom’s unprecedented hunger strike must bear fruit.
Be ready to wear “I am Irom” cap.
Now when you eat anything –think of Irom.