4th November 2000, marked the start of great, yet unfinished, journey of a brave lady named Irom Sharmila and more popularly known as “Iron Lady” of Manipur.
She has won many international awards and every year the numbers of awards are adding on the list, some to show solidarity to her lone struggle and some to grab the limelight. But, very few of them are brave enough to join her struggle in the true sense and spirit.
A decade on fast, forced feed and confined inside a hospital ward is enough to break someone’s courage and will, but she is different. She stood the test of time, will and courage. Every day she is becoming stronger and stronger. Mahatma Gandhi himself would be embarrassed to see the treatment meted to her in this free and largest democratic nation.
But, no one is really helping her in the fight to remove the dreaded Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from Manipur. There are many civil organizations, NGOs, Human Rights organization, etc. who have pledged support to her, but none is coming out in the true sense when it really counts.
Symbolic protests, bandhs and hunger strikes have been called many times in the past for many years and will continue to do so in the days to come in the name of her or removal of AFSPA from Manipur. However, none of them is going to bear any fruit.
A person of even ordinary common sense can easily realize and say that AFSPA is here to stay in Manipur and Sharmila will fast for years to come until the issue of militancy is resolved or atleast come to a negotiation table.
Revocation of AFSPA from Imphal municipal council areas inspite of disagreement from Union Govt. is the sign of trust by State Govt. However, we seem to be not ready to take its advantage and help in removing it all over from Manipur. Beyond this, State Govt. is helpless unless its people cooperate.
But, all the citizens of Manipur have seemed to abandon her and her struggle for betterment of Manipur.
Look at the number of militancy group in Manipur – mind boggling 39 (or more) in number, each one of them pursuing the same goal. For a population of roughly 27 lakhs, these seem to be too many. Something is seriously wrong.
The news of extortion, kidnap, ransom, bombs and guns (even in schools, hospitals) have become a part of normal life and news. None of us are doing enough to stop these. GK Pillai (Union Home Secretary) once rightly described the militancy in Manipur as “cottage industry for extortion”. I couldn’t disagree with him.
Meghen (arrested leader of UNLF) always talked about plebiscite. But, he needs to do introspection to his own party cadres and see what is really going on. Many of them are with the party for their own purpose and greed. People have lost faith on you and your party.
Recent raids (on charge of having connection with UNLF) by NIA on Lamyanba Compound (a civil organization) and other prominent people / places have raised many uncomfortable questions. There will be many more civil organizations in their list to be raided in near future.
Even a common man of Manipur is aware of connection between the outlaws and many civil organizations. It is understood that without some kind of backing from one of them, even running a shop is difficult.
There is also alleged connection between the Students’ Union, MLAs, ministers and so-called UGs. It is an open-secret.
It shows that there is deep connection between our civil societies established under the framework of Indian constitution and outlaw organizations. And these civil societies (or many individuals) happen to support the cause of Sharmila in a big way in some way or other. Then, how do you expect the Union Government to look into her cause? My sincere request to these civil organizations (and many individuals) will be – please stop doing double talks and acts.
Perhaps, time has come for the common man to tell these self-style freedom fighters – enough, enough of fooling around common man in the name of motherland and freedom. And time has also come for the civil societies to come clean.
Only then, AFSPA will be revoked automatically and Sharmila will return to her normal life, else her effort and sacrifice is going waste.