By Parvatee Jain
India is a land where activism and fight for the rights of poor and downtrodden is met with bullet, social abuses, hunger, suicide and social murder.
Mahatma Gandhi was killed because he wished an independent India free from social ill and social inequality.
Thousands of men, women and children had been victim to bullets of paramilitary forces in Seven Sister States since 1958 when Indian government introduced inhuman laws. Let the women be raped in Manipur by Indian soldiers is the message came from Manipur state elections.
Women are raped and killed in Seven Sister States but nobody can raise voice because of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Seven Sister States are the contiguous states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura in northeastern India.
An Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila Chanu who kept on hunger strike for 16 long years for the rights of poor people of Manipur got only 90 votes today’s election result because she dedicated her whole life for the right of poor and downtrodden. Her fight was not against any political party rather against the establishment of India which ensured a disgraceful defeat to her.
“I am leaving Manipur for a bit. I will go to South India, to Kerala for some time, maybe a month, to an ashram where I can meditate and concentrate on spirituality,” says Irom after receiving results of elections.
Irom broke down while talking of her loss.
“I feel betrayed. But it is not the people’s fault. They are just innocent people. I don’t know why I am crying. I don’t feel that I am defeated morally. People would’ve have voted for me but their right to vote has been occupied by money. Many people told me, oh eche (sister) we would’ve voted for you, but we have already received money. You are too late, you are too late – they told me,” said Irom.
She says she will quit politics.” In the morning first I thought, let me try once more for the MP elections. But later I realised, that there is a disconnect between my mind and my heart. I will leave politics, I will never fight another election”, said Irom.
Irom says she will continue her struggle against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) however, “through other platforms”.
“I will lobby for this cause all over the world. I don’t know where I will live, but if you serve the people, you can serve them from anywhere”, she says.
Irom still believes that the formation of People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) party, which fielded only three candidates all of whom have lost, was a good idea. “I want PRJA to continue and to grow. I want it to become a people’s movement backed by the youth of Manipur.
“Sometimes I feel like I have been public property. But from now on, Irom Sharmila will decide her own fate”, she says.
Irom Chanu Sharmila is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur. On 2 November 2000, she began a hunger strike which she ended on 9 August 2016, after 16 years of fasting. Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, she has been called “the world’s longest hunger striker.
Sharmila grew up and lives in Manipur, one of the Seven Sister States in India’s northeast, which has suffered from an insurgency for decades; from 2005 to 2015 about 5,500 people killed from political violence. In 1958, the Indian government passed a law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 that applies to just the seven states and grants security forces the power to search properties without a warrant, and to arrest people, and to use deadly force if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is acting against the state; a similar Act applies to Jammu & Kashmir.
On 2 November 2000 ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur. The incident, known as the “Malom Massacre” was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state.
Sharmila, who was 28 at the time of Malom Massacre, began to fast in protest. Her primary demand to the Indian government has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). She began her fast in Malom on 5 November, and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed.
Three days after she began her strike, she was arrested by the police and charged with an “attempt to commit suicide”, which was unlawful under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) at that time, and was later transferred to judicial custody. Sharmila has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began.
By 2004, Sharmila had become an “icon of public resistance”. Following her procedural release on 2 October 2006 Sharmila went to Raj Ghat, New Delhi, which she said was “to pay floral tribute to my ideal, Mahatma Gandhi.” Later that evening, Sharmila headed for Jantar Mantar for a protest demonstration where she was joined by students, human rights activists and other concerned citizens. 30 women protested naked in support of Sharmila in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters. They held a banner saying “Indian Army rape us” and all of them were imprisoned for three months.
In 2011 the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) was launched to highlight Sharmila’s struggle and in December 2011, Pune University announced a scholarship program for 39 female Manipuri students to take degree courses in honour of Irom Sharmila.
On March 28, 2016, she was released from judicial custody as charges against her were rejected by a local court in Imphal. Sharmila kept her vow of neither entering her house nor meeting her mother till the government repeals AFSPA and went to continue her fast at Shahid Minar, Imphal on the same day of her release. She was again arrested by the police under the same charge of attempt to commit suicide by means of indefinite fast.
On July 26, 2016, Irom Sharmila, announced that she would end her fast on August 9, 2016. She also announced that she would contest state elections from Manipur.
She got just 90 votes and her political career ends today.
Her defeat will help establishment of central government to rule Manipur with more brutality because disgraceful defeat of Irom Sharmila has become an example for others not to stand against brutal rule of Democratic India in Seven Sister States.
Her defeat is shocking and it represents that Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) won elections instead of her opponent.
— மழைமகள் (@nethraa_) March 11, 2017
— Prerna (@Iam_Prerna) March 12, 2017
#IromSharmila I salute u, cause u spent half of ur life for a cause. But this is twitter generation, they care about trends more than morals
— Dr. Mugdha Singh (@IMMugdhaSingh) March 11, 2017
Dear #IromSharmila u believed in wrong people, u stayed hungry for 16 yrs, u declined offers of crores from BJP for wrong ppl. We r ashamed
— Che Gormint (@BikGayiGovt) March 11, 2017
The views and opinions expressed in this article/Opinion/Comment are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Dispatch News Desk (DND). Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of Dispatch News Desk.