peoples march

from the people against injustice in the society

NONVIOLENT PROTEST BY A LADY IN MANIPUR

Posted by ajadhind on October 2, 2007

We remember him only on october 2 , political parties will praise him on this date and congress is one step forward , it had limited him to their political party…… he is a matter of politics for them. Instead of praising or teasing him read this article about a lady who is a follower of gandhi in real sense.

For the past 30-odd years Manipur, home to over 30 militant groups and bitter ethnic strife, has known just one way to settle disputes: through the barrel of the gun. So when someone undertakes a non-violent protest for six years, the state sits up and takes notice. Irom Sharmila Chanu has, since November 2000, refused food and water in protest against the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) in her state — and today occupies a unique position among her people.
The “Iron Lady Of Manipur” has now shifted base to Delhi, seeking a better platform to make her voice heard and her protest to take effect — and, ironically, to show the national capital that Gandhian protest is still alive. Indeed, her only excursion beyond Jantar Mantar has been to Rajghat, to pay homage to the Mahatma.
While the capital’s Manipuri population makes a beeline for her, the state government — which has kept her alive for six years by force-feeding her through the nose — is probably heaving a private sigh of relief. Should anything happen to her now, their slate is clean. It’s another matter that if Sharmila dies, and it’s a distinct possibility, Manipur will burn. By living, she’s kept in check the outrage against the AFSPA. She gives hope. If she should die fasting, her cause and the circumstances of her death could well lead to another June 18-like uprising. The Manipur government realised this, and made sure she stayed alive as long as she was in Manipur.
Sharmila’s protest was triggered by not by any political agenda but a gruesome massacre: The gunning down, by security forces, of 10 people waiting at a bus-stand in Malom near Imphal in November 2000 on suspicion of being insurgents. She was 28 then, just another ordinary Manipuri tired of the violence that perpetrated every facet of life.
“It was too much for me, beyond my capacity of tolerance”, she told this writer in September 2005, lying in in her tacky room in the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru government hospital in Imphal. Getting an interview with her was about the easiest thing, for the government was more than happy to have the media report that she was alive and well, as many times as possible. While the media had easy access to her, family members were not allowed audience.
In that nondescript, bare room with a regulation hospital bed and a rotting wooden table, with two bored policewomen for company, Sharmila was a spectral shadow with curly hair and a nose feeding tube dangling from one nostril. On the wall behind her pillow was the most striking aspect of the room: a huge collage of magazine cuttings and newspaper clippings that she put together. It was probably this avid interest in news, and the yoga she practised daily, that kept her mental strength intact.
Told that the government spent more than Rs 1 lakh every year to keep her alive, she was shocked. “I consume so much public money? Very shocking”, she said, barely audible. “I suppose the government is afraid to let me die. I am not suicide-eager; I want to live and die like normal people (do), but this hunger-strike is the only way open to me to achieve my goal.”
Her anger is more against the state government, which she called a “puppet of the Centre”. “The government cannot decide its political agenda, so their logic is: suppress the voice of the people. I think of myself more as a social reformer, and the common people are more convinced of the sentiments of social reformers like me rather than the promises of the government. All this insurgency, this extortion is a fallout of government policy,” she’d said.
Repeated appeals from the state government, including several personal requests by chief minister O Ibobi Singh, have not affected Sharmila’s resolve. When, following the Manorama incident in 2004 (Manorama was allegedly raped and killed by paramilitaries), the AFSPA was lifted from Imphal municipal limits and the Prime Minister reassured her of further relaxations, Sharmila remained unfazed. “The AFSPA has to be totally lifted from Manipur. Till then, my fast continues.”
Recognition of her non-violent protest was made all the more clear when she was included among the 1,000 women jointly nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005; when told about it, she broke out in a rare smile, then said that she wanted to meet the other 999 women and share experiences.
The ball is in the Centre’s court. Will they, too, arrest Sharmila and nose-feed her for as long as it takes? Will her deteriorating health hold up? Answers to these questions seem far more easy to guess than whether the AFSPA will be lifted from Manipur to restore a normal life to her.

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