Irom Sharmila’s decision to end her fast is a welcome step. This would be the end her 16 year long non-violent resistance against a violent state. She had started her fast following the shooting of 10 Manipuris at a Bus stand in 2000. One cannot get a better image of resistance, opposition and struggle than the one displayed by Irom Sharmila.
Contrary to her expectation, the fast which continued for over 16 years was not able to bring about any change in either the behavior of Indian armed forces or a decision was taken by Government to lift Armed forces special powers act. Human rights violations continued in areas of North-east, Kashmir and Bastar. It had little effect in bringing about change in the behavior of the State. The recent events in other conflict prone areas such as Kashmir only show that this is going to hardly witness alteration.
The continuation of fast so far has meant little for people in Manipur or other conflict prone regions in the country. State violence continues in these states in the form of killings, encounters, rapes and other forms of harassment in the name of counter insurgency. No change was witnessed in state Behaviour as it cannot think beyond a military solution. The recent events in other parts of the country as in Kashmir only further show that for them military solutions are the only means to address a conflict situation.
The state does occasionally talk of ‘winning hearts and minds’ or announce ‘special packages’ or ‘development’ in conflict prone areas. However, these are just empty words to pacify the grievances. Ultimately the military solution is the one what it believes in. The electoral politics at the state level has not been able to question the human rights violations issues at the state level.
It such a situation, her decision to end fast is a welcome step. However, she needs to continue her struggle either through electoral politics or grassroots human rights activism. Perhaps this can become an agenda in electoral politics.
T Navin works with an NGO as a Researcher. He did his M.Phil from Jawaharlal Nehru University