Though some people I know may not approve of my decision of removing AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act.) from Manipur, the cause Miss Irom Sharmila is fighting for over 11 years now, but still I think I am sure of why I’m writing this.
I know you would want a story to get you glued to it else it might not interest you at all. So, here I am presenting you a short story to get you up and close with Irom Sharmila.
Irom Sharmila born on March 4, 1972 in Manipur was an ordinary girl until one day she shredded the decision of living an ordinary life. She was a fair complexioned girl with jet black curly hair and that peaceful smile on her face.
Like any other girl she too had dreams of getting married and living a peaceful life with family and friends. Very similar to what all of us aspire to live.
Well living a peaceful life is pretty much a reality for us living here in metropolitan cities but could be a distant reality for a person living in a region where the AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act.) is in place.Under this Act, all security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order”. In short it is one of those draconian laws which are being used by Armed Forces, sometimes to harass people of the region in the name of curbing extremism. I fully respect the Armed Forces of our nation but at the same time it is quite familiar with all of us that how laws like AFSPA are used by some evil sections of the forces.
For young Irom Sharmila, things came to a head on November 2, 2000. A day earlier, an insurgent group had bombed an Assam Rifles column. The enraged battalion retaliated by gunning down 10 young innocent boys standing on a bus stop. The very next day the brutal pictures of the dead bodies were published including the picture of a 62 year old woman and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner who were amongst the killed. Extraordinarily stirred by the event, 28 years old Sharmila began her fast on November 4, 2000.
Since then she is fasting for the removal of AFSPA from the state of Manipur. For first six years she was put under arrest by the state authorities,isolated in a single room in JN Hospital in Imphal. Each time she was released she took out the tube out of her nose, the tube that was tied to her by state authorities to forcefully feed her. For more than a decade she had not eaten anything solid. On November 4, 2000, Sharmila had sought her mother Irom Shakhi’s blessings, You will win your goal,” Shakhi said. Sharmila resides within the walking distance of her mother but had not met her since then. When Shakhi was asked about this she said ” I’m weak hearted and will not be able to see Sharmila in this condition.” There were tears of motherly affection in her eyes. ” If this Act could just be removed even for five days, I would feed her rice water spoon by spoon. After that, even if she dies, we will be content, for my Sharmila will have fulfilled her wish.” Shakhi (Sharmila’s mother) added.In 2004, while Sharmila was already fasting against the brutal AFSPA, the Assam Rifles arrested Thangjam Manorama Devi, a 32-year-old woman, allegedly a member of the banned People’s Liberation Army. Her body was found dumped in Imphal a day later, marked with terrible signs of torture and rape. Manipur came to a spontaneous boil. 15 days later in an extra ordinary attempt surpassing the limits of human expression 30 ladies protested nude in front of Assam Rifles headquarters at Kangla Fort with the banners saying “Indian Army, rape us too”, they screamed. The State responded by jailing all of them for three months.
The struggle of Sharmila and lakhs of citizens of India is still going on. The feeling of not free and liberated in their own country surrounds them. For more than 11 years now Irom Sharmila had not eaten anything or even not drunk a single drop of water. She had stopped brushing her teeth and wipes them daily with dry cotton and her lips with dry spirit so she would not sully her fast. Her body is getting wasted inside. Even her menstrual cycle had stopped. Yet she is resolute and she wants her voice to be heard in the most peaceful and reasonable way.
Here, I’m not presenting this story to gather any sympathies for her but the only thing I want is a pause, a pause from our very own self interests. There are some stories that are untold and unseen which need our pause and attention if not our help. The story of Irom Sharmila is the story of extra ordinary resolute, extra ordinary will power of an extra ordinary woman who is fighting for her and her society’s human rights. The rights which they are eligible for, like all other citizens of our country.
P.S. All the facts and pictures in this post are collected from various reliable sources.