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In The World's Largest Democracy, A Democratic Voice Silenced For 12 Years

By Pallavi Ghosh

30 October, 2012

Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign is observing 12 Article series to reflect 12 years of suppression of Irom Sharmila's fast. Irom Sharmila is completing her 12 years of fast on 5th November. This is the sixth in the series

Twelve years of persistent resistance by a lady in Manipur. So what this is all about? What is Irom Sharmila against? I can only try, the rest is up to the readers. What she is really opposing is the military regime existing in Manipur. Not that long ago, the world witnessed the victory of Aung-sung-su-kyi, the Burmese political leader against similar oppressive military regime. Even in the Arab region there have been persistent protests and active movements against such oppressive structures and systems. The war is on and the result is undecided yet.

But one might argue that the case is different. India is after all a democracy and the most successful in the Indian subcontinent. Yes, I cannot possibly deny the first part, but the latter is rather contentious, especially in a place where riots break out of ethnic differences even today and the farmers’ suicide rate is still formidable.

Speaking about the similarity between all such regimes all over the world, all of them share a similar resistant or ignorant attitude towards any kind of critical mass movement.
Thankfully in a democracy one is at least allowed to speak. So I dare to ask as to why Irom’s 12-year-long struggle has been sidelined as though she was a child crying for her lost toy! Is it because she is a woman? Or is it because she is a common citizen and not a bureaucrat?
An entire nation was respectful and in awe of a seventy-five year-old man when he began his sole war against corruption. His week-long fast was so intimidating that it changed the course of parliamentary discussions. I am not against any activist in particular. Mr Hazare’s movement against corruption is indeed commendable. What I am against is the pretence that one pill can cure all diseases, which is rather characteristic of token democracy. Every battle has a different stake and every battle is as important as any other. Therefore, Irom’s struggle is neither a penny more nor a penny less valuable than the protests against corruption today. Moreover, isn’t unaccountability the premise of corruption and is not the misuse of power one of the heads of the ten-headed evil, namely corruption?

When students marched supporting her cause, they were lathi-charged. When political leaders and social activists pressed her cause, they were conveniently ignored.

The basic characteristic of a democracy is transparency and accountability. This is what the AFSPA violates. Uncontrolled and unchecked power is always susceptible to misuse and abuse as the adage confirms-power corrupts an absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Humanity has always been the first casualty whenever power has been misused. Therefore what Irom Sharmila has been fighting for more than a decade now is not only for democracy in its true spirit, but also for humanity.

Pallavi Ghosh is a student at IIMC Orissa. She is a volunteer of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign.




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