Conversation With Irom Sharmila: Lessons From The Iron Lady
By Ravi Nitesh
21 August, 2014
By a decision of Imphal court 19 August 2014 Irom Sharmila was released from prison. The court released Irom Sharmila as ‘prosecution could not establish her intention to commit suicide by fasting un to death.' A case was lodged against Irom Sharmila under section 309 of IPC (Indian Penal Code) where ‘attempt to suicide' was registered because Sharmila started fast in the year 2000 with her demand to repeal AFSPAShe started this fast after an incident known as ‘Malom Massacre', where few persons waiting at a bus stand were being killed by bullets of Asaam Rifles (a security force). Many such incidents had already been taken place and human rights violations by security forces have been reported. These security forces are operating in North East region of India (where Manipur is a one of the state) with the extraordinary powers provided to them under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958.
I met her two months back when she was at New Delhi regarding a case hearing in Delhi's Patiala house court. This case was also for the same crime and was running at New Delhi because Sharmila also sat on fast at New Delhi once in the year 2006 when she was in Delhi and then Delhi police registered a case under 309 IPC against her.
I met her during this hearing and had been with her for long hours. Talked with her upon various issues. Here is my experience of talking with her.
‘ No, I am comfortable here. For me hearing is more important than comfort. I will sit and wait here .'
These were the words of the Iron lady of Manipur, Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu who is on a hunger-strike against the draconian law of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for 14 years now, while she was waiting outside of courtroom for next part of hearing and when on advise of advocates, I asked her to sit inside the court room as there was a fan inside the room while it was hot outside.
For me, meeting her was an opportunity that I had been waiting for a very long time and it had come. I had accompanied her all throughout while she was waiting outside the courtroom. I had also met her previous day while she stayed at a guest house under security. My curiosity was there for many reasons, one was my respect towards her heroic non-violent struggle, second was for my support towards her cause and third one was my curiosity to observe all such moments when I get a chance to study, to learn with someone. I can say that I learnt a lot from this meeting.
Her words describe her best. It was a time when she was also sweating due to heat outside, she was ready to wait to resume her hearing for that she came since morning at 10 and stayed there. Her caretakers told me that now it is the time (around 1 PM) when she needs to be fed through nasal tube (Irom Sharmila is under house arrest and is forcefully fed by Government through nasal tube to only keep her alive, the only response that the Government has given in the 14 years of her struggle). She heard our conversation and told again to me ‘ No, I can live without that feeding. Case hearing is important, my feeding can be adjustable '.
She had surprised me again. I thought that how we curse the system, the policies, rules when these systems obstruct our comfort, but this lady has not uttered a single word even though it was the time of her feeding as per medical norms.
Ironically, the court after hearing arguments in first half of the day, upheld till start of second shift of hearing (that took more than an hour), in the name of witness hearing and lunch. For me it was very sad to witness that a court declared break for ‘lunch hour and witness production' during the case of a lady who is on fast since last 14 years. It was a time when I felt pity over the set customs where customs and set rules of our courts become more important than humanity, in the name of ‘protecting humanity through justice'. I felt pity upon myself too that though I am complaining over this behavior of court, its Irom Sharmila never expressed even a little bit discomfort over all these. Sensitisation speaks through action.
For a family of human rights defenders, Sharmila is an inspiration; but in my opinion, Sharmila is an inspiration for everyone who wants to practice non violence, patience and peace; as no one else, I witnessed and found like her. I heard about Gandhi and Mandela, I read about them but it is Irom Sharmila who probably affected me more, through her action that speaks a language of peace, a language of non violence and who teach all learnings of Gandhi , Mandela and other such people who lived and taught the world about such actions.
At this time, I may not be able to speak with her, but her actions speak to us every time. Every time when I get irritated over something, her actions automatically come in my mind, to keep patience, to control and to wait, with all the hope that all such lunch hours will be passed by the time, and hearing will be resumed again and the day will come, when justice will be awarded…………..
Photo: By Ravi Nitesh at Patiala House Court, New Delhi
Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
follow on twitter: www.twitter.com/ravinitesh Blog: www.ravinitesh.blogspot.com
Comments are moderated