I read many a times in the books, heard it on TV that one moment or one day is enough to change your life forever. While I never experienced this, Sharmila or rather Irom Sharmila did. The day when 10 bystanders at a bus stop were killed by the armed forces, that day, Sharmila refused to shy away from it. That one moment on that day triggered what now is being referred to as “The Forgotten Satyagraha”.
For the forgotten by the forgotten:
Sharmila took it upon herself to demand the government to repeal the armed forces special protection act. Her weapon was Satyagraha, the hunger strike, the fast until death. It’s the same weapon Anna chose to bring a sense of urgency to the whole situation of corruption. Thats where the similarities end. I think sharmila lost her fight even before she started it, because she was fighting from a forgotten state in the far away corner of the north east and for the cause of forgotten people.
Don’t believe me, think when was the last time you heard about the north eastern states or even thought about them. I know it’s hard. The most I heard about the north eastern states is in the movie “Dil Se” !. That could be just me.
But in both the struggles, the governments reluctance to yield or to listen to genuine grievances of the people has led the common man to take the streets and more often than not stretched him to take some drastic measures.
Whose failure is it anyway ?
Sharmila ever since her childhood would fast every Thursday. The massacre happened on a Thursday, sharmila did her usual fasting. Only difference this time, she hasn’t stopped since. It’s been 10 years since sharmila has been on the hunger strike, although unwillingly she is being fed through her nose. Come to think of this, 10 years is really a long time. If it’s sharmila’s 10 years then it’s even longer and even more treacherous and gruelling. Sharmila could have become something else in life, she could have been much happier, much healthier and much more accomplished in her life. Instead she is in a hospital, not allowed to move, under surveillance and forcefully fed through her nose.
Now some may say its unconstitutional to fast until death, but what would sharmila have done. How else could she have made the government listen to her plea. Sharmila wasn’t shy, she raised her voice, expressed her concern, wrote to the authorities, basically did everything she could as a true citizen of a democratic India. She paid a price, that no matter what happens, she can never be paid back and she took up the fight for the 10 people who lost their lives, for the families who were left behind to mourn their deaths, for all those who will be and who have been affected. The media didn’t bother, the government didn’t bother, the people didn’t bother, neither did you nor me bothered. We all collectively failed !
I wonder in the past 10 years
- how many times the government engaged with irom sharmila ?
- Has the government tried any alternatives ?
- Has the government engaged with the local people, local authorities before clamping down with such laws ?
- Is there no other way to deal with the states that are declared as “disturbed areas”
Here is an excerpt of my conversation with sharmila’s brother
Here are some links if interested in some context
1) Sharmila’s struggle
2) Armed Forces Special Protection Act : On paper, AFSPA is a deceptively simple law. First passed in 1958, it comes into play when the government declares a particular part of the northeast (or Jammu and Kashmir under a parallel 1990 law) a “disturbed area.” Within that area, an officer of the armed forces has the power to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in force in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or of fire-arms, ammunition or explosive substances.” Source : Click Here