A Meal for Sharmila

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Irom Sharmila said that she has not had a drop of water for the last fourteen years. The hunger striker in her maiden press conference at Manipur Press Club was a poignant affair. Teary eyed, she mentioned that she yearns to have a meal, as the only taste she had known was of her own saliva.

In one’s normal routine, the day begins with breakfast and after having lunch, we come out for the day’s work. As we burn calories, our metabolism demands replenishment every now and then. After all, who has not experienced the pangs of hunger ! When Sharmila came to the press club, she looked exhausted. The activists accompanying her also mentioned of the stress she has undergone since her release and even appealed to the media to refrain from asking too many questions. It is hospitable routine to offer someone a drink of water if the person looks exhausted, and the first thought that came was to offer her a glass of water. But, it dawned that to offer such hospitality would be sacrilege, despite the heart wishing to offer her respite.

She had her moment with the media but in the course, her statement of wanting to have a meal tugged at the heart. Her cry that the public needs to wake up and see the demon, to face it and to emerge victorious cut across the corners of the room. She mentioned of not being a martyr nor being a leader, but just simply demanding the right to life in form of non-violent protest.

A complete sense of emasculation pervaded! A sense of being a non-entity and inability to aid her crept in, for someone who has been fasting for 14 years so that we could live without the fear of the demon. What could be done and what can one do, for her and for ourselves ? One cannot muster up the courage to stand alongside her and join in her fast. But her appeal to the masses to aid her in removing AFSPA still resonates clearly!

The present situation before her so called release is a series of protests for implementation of the Inner Line Permit system which is still ongoing. The agitations of students, meira paibis, local clubs led by civil organizations was the top issue and much pressure was put to the government. However, the news of Sharmila’s so called ‘release’ again came to the forefront and the headlines are of her again. In the matter, what short of a release is 24 hours ? It seems a cruel jest from the judiciary or otherwise to toy with the liberty of a living icon. Now, the various leaders of civil bodies swore to stand by her and to pursue the fight against AFSPA. With the way things are, the question is, are we supposed to demand for the ILP system or to show solidarity to Sharmila against AFSPA ?

When queried to Sharmila about how she wants the public to reciprocate, it was mentioned that the two issues can be clubbed together and protest can be held jointly. It is not within one’s ambit to decide or suggest the measures needed to bring about a resolve in this regard. But, Sharmila had also mentioned that the public needs to decide for themselves while quipping in that AFSPA robs one of the right to life.

This act has been implemented for such a time and so many atrocities perpetrated that perhaps the public has become accustomed to the demon. The lethargy has become part of our system and perhaps we feel that the writing on the wall is meant for the other person.

The present state of affairs and the petrol pumps closing down, the unavailability of fuel seems to be what the public seems to be actually concerned about. It is time that the social activists chalk out a plan to rally for the AFSPA cause, as with Sharmila once again in prison, the AFSPA protest may vaporize like it has this last fourteen years. Let us at least try to feed her a meal.

Leader Writer: Paojel Chaoba

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