Persevering For Victory Of Belief
By Manish Kumar
05 November, 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 12th and last in the series
I don’t know from where to begin and so let me begin with a name- Irom Sharmila Chanu. In many ways, this name represents the collective effort of the people of Manipur. It strikes in one’s mind the idea of non-violence and peaceful protest. Yes, she had been on a fast for the last 12 years against the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), demanding that this draconian piece of legislation be removed urgently. AFSPA is in force in almost all north eastern states of India but it is in Manipur that the inhumane face of this law is most manifest. Under AFSPA, there have been gross violations of human rights in north eastern states of India and Sharmila is just one victim. AFSPA totally shatters the human dignity and questions one’s basic right to live peacefully and happily.
Sometime back, I was discussing the AFSPA with a friend of mine who hails from Manipur. He accepted that people live there in a constant fear of both, the military and the militants. He had planned on going home for Christmas but when he called up his parents in Imphal, they suggested that he stay in the Institute where he is studying because a lot of violence and gunfire was going on between the military and the militants and even between different militant groups. Long hair, funky toned jeans or traditional rural dress are reasons enough to be subjected to questioning by the military. Due to AFSPA, many have been wrongfully arrested and fake encounters have become common place. He said people are not allowed to organize seminars and councils and if you have the temerity to organize one, your life is in danger. Several people, many young men and women included, have been arrested on this charge. Bombing and shooting has become the norm. The value for human life is zero; life starts late and day ends early even in the festive seasons. Extra Judicial Deaths are happening regularly, abusive language and misuse of authority prevails on daily basis but no one is listening.
AFSPA also ensures that infrastructural development never reaches the North-East. For example, BSNL is the only company allowed to run and operate a telephone network in this part of the country. Unemployment is high and statistics related to education are not heartening either. Most importantly, there is no strong body to blow the whistle at the exploitation of human rights. Policy makers have totally failed to understand the root of the problem.
AFSPA seems to be primarily a strategy for fear-mongering by the government and one has to say that it has succeeded. It has to be removed; this is no way to rule. AFSPA often evades sense and even pushes more people to militancy. In a way AFSPA is a driving force behind militancy as the killing of innocent people and the limitless torture spur more of the youth to seek a violent revenge. As almost all constitutional remedies fail them, they swear to answer blood with blood.
AFSPA suppresses people and has been used as a convenient strategy by the government to hold a strong position against the north eastern states, which have been demanding for sovereignty and autonomy since Independence. Perhaps, the rest of India should listen to Sharmila. There are various ways by which India can show concern to north eastern states like recognition, reinforcement, development, care and attention towards it’s people.
Lastly, I just want to say that 12 years is a very long time and the government should realize this and take positive steps towards Irom Sharmila and her demands and the people of Manipur. NHRC and other human rights looking bodies should also take initiative and direct the government of India to react resolve this concern as soon as possible.
Manish Kumar is a student at IIT-Madras. He is a volunteer of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign. He can be mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
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