Saheli Dey: Irom Sharmila breaks her 16 year old fast. At last, Manipur’s Iron Lady withdraws her vendetta. Those were some reflections of the headlines carried by several newspapers, portals, channels on August 10. But what’s next? Did these headlines truly reflect the forthcoming reaction of Manipur?
The unbending heroine with the rubber tube protruded in her nostrils swinging in defiance. Irom Sharmila Chanu, famously known as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ did break her fast, but did not withdraw her protest against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA). This courageous woman, who took the oath of fasting in protest of the alleged death of 10 civilians by armed forces, personally carried on with sheer determination and the belief that she will be victorious someday. She might have broken her fast, but she has certainly not failed.
Irom Chanu Sharmila, a civil and human rights activist began her hunger strike on November 2, 2000 when on that very day ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop in a town called Malom. The ‘Malom Massacre’ allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles sparked controversy worldwide. It drew the attention of the lady, who was already leading several peace movements regarding human rights abuses in Manipur.
Did Irom think that 16 years later she would witness an altered mood of Manipur? An uncertainty of life welcomed her after she took a dab of honey to mark her breaking the hunger strike publicly. After that incident she was refused a shelter at her friend’s house. Not a single NGO was moved to accept her to stay with them. Why? Is this what Irom had fought for? Yes, even now she wants to fight against the AFSPA, but nothing could be achieved without required support. So, disappointed Chanu did return back to the hospital on the same day, but with more determination to fight against that ‘draconian’ Act.
Irom Chanu said, “Please help me become the chief minister. I promise I will change things if you make me chief minister. I will abrogate the draconian AFSPA.” She seems to be pleading unlike before, when she had been sounded more demanding. May be, that was the outcome of blunt rejection from her past sponsors.
It must be questioned that why such an attitude was motivated against the personality who had fought not only for those 10 people who lost their lives in Malom, but for others who had lost their lives just because of the abuse of AFSPA? The AFSPA gives options to the para-military forces of the country to shoot and kill anyone whom they think responsible for creating violence and disturbance in particular area. Recently, the Supreme Court of India reflected that the Act really had backfired in many cases and rebuked the Govt.
Controversy arose after her decision to end of fasting. While one section of the society support her and welcome her for coming back to normality, her past acquaintances refused to accept her decision. Perhaps, sixteen years of fasting had fed a sadistic appetite. Many considered her withdrawal a conspiracy, a betrayal and believed that Sharmila was tricked by some political spheres. But even if such a ‘conspiracy’ reigns, do those people believe that that political trick was so gullible for the Iron Lady of Manipur? The brave woman, who fought bravely for each and every human soul on earth for the last 16 years, why suddenly lose her determination to just join in ‘dirty’ politics? Do they forget to foresee what Sharmila dreams? With great power comes great responsibility. Sharmila did mention that she had started her hunger strike on her own and the decision to end it was also her own. With great power of will, Sharmila may complete her fight successfully someday. Till then, we salute her as the Relentless Crusader against the ‘draconian’ AFSPA indeed.