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Unmatched Saga of Relentless Struggle - Irom Sharmila Chanu

By Mandavi

31 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 seventh in the series

She is called the “Iron Lady of Manipur”. A civil rights activist and a poet from Manipur, India, she's the one and only Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on a fast for over twelve years now. Her only plea to the Indian government is to take away the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 which empowers the military to shoot down just anyone on mere suspicion.

She has been consistently and incessantly continuing the fast but in vein. But, what has motivated and continues to motivate her to consider this harsh tone? A thought of the Malom Massacre...

On that fatal Thursday, November 2, 2000, ten ordinary people were shot and wiped out through the eighth Assam Rifles while they were waiting for the bus at a bus-stand in Malom, an urban area within the Imphal town of Manipur. The following day, the local dailies carried the atrocious and cruel pictures from their dead physiques, together with a 62-years old lady, Leisangbam Ibetombi, and 18-years old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award champion. In the news, all of them including the 62 year old lady and the Bravery Award winner were declared to be “militants”. This incident is referred to as the “Malom Massacre”.

Enraged by these increased atrocities from the military, 28-years-old Sharmila, who would observe fast every Thursday since childhood, decided to dedicate the fast to draw attention of the Government towards these atrocities. But little did she know that, her fast would continue for 12 years. She is neither taking water nor food. On November 4, 2000 she visited the spot where the incident had occured and stated her utmost step - to fast-unto-dying till AFSPA is taken away.

Sharmila stated, "I had been traumatised by the sight. There is no way to stop the further intrusion by the military... It (fast) is the best way, it is a spiritual fight... My fast is with respect to the folks of Manipur. This isn't an individual fight, it's symbolic. It's an indication of truth, peace and love."

Around the third day of her fast, she was arrested and charged with 'attempt to commit suicide', under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. The Government decided to keep her on a nasal feeding of a semi liquid substance, just to keep her alive while keeping her under house-arrest. Every year, she is re-arrested.

Born on March 14, 1972, since childhood Sharmila was quite incomparable from other women in her own locality. She was modest, a basic girl having a couple of selected buddies. She didn't like dressing, she neither used any cosmetics nor any jewellery. She was habitual of reading Bhagwad Gita and practised yoga and began learning naturopathy and stenography.

A lady like Sharmila is unequalled; she's actively fighting for her region, for her people without getting her very own individual interests. Her fast is possibly, the longest hunger-strike ever. She’s not been eating or drinking, even a droplet of water since November, 2000. She's been kept alive through the painful procedure of nasal feeding. She's now living in an exceedingly pitiable condition. She doesn’t comb her hair, does not check herself in the mirror and cleans her teeth with a dry cotton. She is internally week, her menstrual cycles have stopped. Whenever she will get a chance, she tries to do away with the nasal tube.

According to a report of BBC on her health stated, "Doctors are saying that her fasting has got an immediate effect on normal functions of her body - her bones have grown to be brittle and some medical disorder are worsening her body too."

She's a lady, a beacon of hope and peace, a genuine fighter who has fought against this fight, for so long and all alone, with no media hype. While Baba Ramdev and Anna Hazare fasted for any couple of days and the whole nation was with them(a huge credit goes to the media), Sharmila's fight is a lonely one. Here it is! Sharmila, you undoubtedly are a legend and has proven the fighting spirit of humankind.

Mandavi is from Chandigarh. She is an entrepreneur and currently running an Event Company. E-mail: [email protected] )




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