13 Years Of Fast: A Consistent ‘Satyagrah’ Of A Woman
By Ravi Nitesh
05 November, 2013
With the 5th November this year, a lady named Irom Sharmila is completing her 13 year of fast. She is imprisoned to security ward of JLN Hospital of Imphal on the charges of 'commit to suicide attempt' since last many years. With the general procedure of law, she appears in court on the date of hearing and judge ask her if she will continue her fast, and she replies in positive. People are emotional for her, she has moral support from all over world, of the organizations and individuals who work and support her struggle.
She has a demand to repeal a controversial act named Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that is imposed in Manipur and at few places of other north east states and in J&K. It was reported that many fake encounters, killings, torture, kidnapping and even rapes were made in the veil of this act because this act under its sections provides impunity to armed forces that no criminal case can be lodged against them without prior permission from central government. It was told that probably not a single case lodged yet in last many years.
Role of Government: Ignorance is not a solution
It is irony that a country that promotes values of non violence is ignoring the non violent struggle of Irom Sharmila while the persons from all over the globe are supporting her. Not recognizing the struggle by governments are no where a solution, rather just reflecting insensitivity and lack of vision to respect the people's desire. Time can be tougher by this ignorance because it can somewhere send a message to general public (at least to youths of Manipur) that non violence has no values to get heard, and then the whole concept of peaceful demonstrations and gandhian way of 'satyagrah' can be easily ignored over other ways to make noise.
In an RTI filed by Save Sharmila Campaign (a support campaign), National Human Rights Commission in the year 2011 informed that no official visit in last 11 years took place to Manipur to meet people or Irom Sharmila or to visit victims of AFSPA. This itself reveals the insensitivity of a prime agency of human rights in India.
Discriminatory Behavior of Govt.
Till now in these 13 years, parliamentarians did not go to her to urge for leaving the fast, or no concrete attempt made to listen , note and work towards the positive and meaningful solution. It was seen that how persons who sit on fast in north india (specially in Delhi) get attention of media and government, but a lady who is on fast for a genuine reason of human rights since last 13 years in Manipur is largely unknown and unheard. It was another point where allegation of discrimination due to region becomes stronger. Manipur get approx 90% funds from center, development is not on the pace, insurgency and domestic conflicts also exists, but no concrete efforts were made to solve all these things as well. People of so called ‘mainland’ India also some times discriminates NE people at few times, and such ignorance to a human rights defender will only increase these sentiments in public that is in against the concept of harmonious society at large. Recently NHRC visited Imphal and camped for three days. The NHRC panel found that restrictions on meeting with Sharmila is unconstitutional.
Support for Irom Sharmila
Irom Sharmila is receiving huge support from all over the globe. People of Manipur are continuously raising voice in her support. A relay fast by Manipuri mothers is also running in continuation of Irom’s fast. Many progressive organizations are extending their support for her. She has received many awards of peace and human rights. Even Nobel peace prize winner Shirin Ibadi extended her support towards her. Though she is largely ignored by media and government in India. But her consistent fast made its attempt to get recognized by documentaries, talks, books, articles etc.
On completion of 13 years, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign initiated nationwide series of events to demand Repeal AFSPA. Amnesty International also launched campaign for Release of Irom Sharmila and started a petition. Amnesty also launched a toll free number 1800 200 0059 where anybody can give a missed call to register support with demand to release Irom Sharmila.
By this way, Irom Sharmila is actually successful to internationalisation of problems of AFSPA. She has one of the major reason that made everybody think, specially common people of non AFSPA imposed areas, about the situations in AFSPA imposed areas. By this realization, the support for Repeal AFSPA demand increased sharply in all areas and people also became aware of democratic values and extremism of powers and lack of punishment. In an overall attempt, Irom Sharmila, through her organized and determined way of non violence, reflected the efforts that an individual can do. She showed that how it is only the dedication that is required for any action in public interest.
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
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