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The State In Which They Lie

By Mansi Rastogi

26 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 second in the series

The image that conjures in the mind of an individual when one hears 'Northeast India' would be of pristine and less explored nature, lush green meadows, men and women in their tribal attires, animal horns and skin. But what else beyond that? With problems like insurgency, unemployment, drug addiction, and lack of infrastructure, India has failed to instill a sense of national identity amongst the North eastern states in its 60 plus years of independence.

One such state is Manipur, which is a border state, though only on the political map. For Indians the mainland politico ends at Kolkata in the northeast. Most of the roads are blocked cutting the state from the rest of India, hospitals do not run, and there is a defunct administration predominated by terrorists who virtually rule the land. In such lawless conditions the education system is bound to go through a downfall with schools being shut for 15 days a month. The Manipuri people hardly get to celebrate Independence Day or Republic Day- they are not allowed by the insurgent groups who dictate the state's life. Only under heavy security cover can government buildings hoist the tricolour for a short while. The city shuts down after 9 P.M. Hindi films are banned and have not been screened for the last fifteen years. To fight insurgency in Manipur, the Indian government has put up the ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWER) ACT, which has further worsened the condition.

The AFSPA was created for the seven 'disturbed' north eastern states in 1958 to empower the armed forces officers to shoot or arrest any person suspected of being an insurgent or on committing any offence and giving them permission to enter any building without a warrant. Moreover, it provides complete exemption from prosecution of any officer for their misdeeds as it requires Central Government's permission. Let alone fighting the insurgency, this act has caused massive havoc in the state as a result of abuse of powers by Indian Army. After imposition of AFSPA, instead of reducing, the insurgent groups are mushrooming. Undoubtedly the AFSPA has failed. The AFSPA has bred a military culture of torture, rape, extra-judicial killings, mysterious disappearances and arbitrary detention. As a matter of fact AFSPA could also be a reason for insurgency which is seen more amongst the young blood to seek revenge for the atrocities caused by the Indian Army to their families and dear ones. There have been many protests to abolish the AFSPA mainly by women but neither the government nor the media has paid much heed to them.

Irom Sharmila Chanu, a 38 year old poet , is on a hunger strike since November 2000. She started her protest primarily due to arbitrary killing of 10 civilians waiting at a bus stop at Malom, Manipur. She was then arrested under the charge of attempting suicide. Since then she has been released and rearrested every year at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital where she is fed forcibly by the Nasogastric tube which makes it uncomfortable for her to speak properly. The wing where she has been kept is highly guarded by armed personnel and it requires permission of seven officials to visit her. Irom has been honored with awards like Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize and Gwangju prize for Human Rights by South Korea. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize twice in the years 2005 and 2010 but it all seems to be in vain when her own country refuses to even attend to her demands, let alone agree.

It's unfortunate that largest democratic country hasn't recognised the peaceful protest of its people. People of Manipur want development at par with mainland India. It's high time the government puts away the permanent state of emergency from the northeastern states and grants them the right to live. How many of us would sacrifice their lives like Irom, who hasn't seen her mother for 11years, for whom the world is a shabby room of a hospital, colours of life are just white and black cuttings of newspapers, and rifles and AK-47s have become her constant companions? While the 'Iron lady' battles every second of life for the people of Manipur, media is busy covering bollywood's glitz and glamour. One can only hope that the face-off between the military rule, State government and the rebel groups would come to an end, granting the much elusive freedom for the aam aadmi to truly relish

Mansi Rastogi is an engineer by profession but would also like to do her “bid” for the society. She has worked with boond, a social enterprise. She can be reached at mansi.hg@gmail.com



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