The hunger striker’s story

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By M.C. Linthoingambee

There are so many stories in this world and a few of them are those that can outlive our lives and those of our children, thereby making a place in history. They are not just a display of written publication but stories of people who have made an extraordinary mark in the world. One such story lies deeply hidden in the north eastern bordered state of Manipur linking with Myanmar.

Manipur is a place that has been deeply encroached with gross violation of human rights. The state linked to the country with a self established democratically ruled governance with over a period of above 60 years of independence is yet to share its joy of freedom from control and be able to exercise even basic fundamental rights. When a certain authority fail to acknowledge the pretext of the basic rights of a person and goes out of control, all things do seem to go haywire. But, what justifies their character? The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 gives certain benefits to Central armed security personnel to justify their action of arrests or killings as an act of countering terrorism even if it puts innocent lives at stake. There have been many, who have fallen victim to this draconian legislation that has been passed as a probate to counter terrorism. But even after 56 years, this acct has failed the very purpose of its enactment and gone towards a more negative route to outcast brother from his sisters, sons from his parents, daughters from her parents, mothers from her family or a father from his family and so forth.

While Terrorism has been thought of to mean – the unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons, there was no such purpose for the 10 civilians who were waiting for a bus at a bus stand at Malom in November 2000. Rather, they lost their lives at the hands of Ceantral armed forces who fired at them claiming their ‘mistake of recognizing them as a source of terror.’ This terrible incident compelled a woman to take it upon herself to take the misdeeds into correction and thus went on to take on unlimited or a never ending fast until the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958. Her name is Irom Chanu Sharmila, a social activist who is constantly at the mercy of the government that releases and then recalls for her arrest on the charge of her attempted suicide. We as a nation, have seen the practice of “Ahimsa” in reality with the Mahatma, so adoringly call the Father of our Nation using it at crucial political standpoints. Such steps and actions were done then and there has been follow ups in certain circumstances like that of Anna Hazare. Even though all of them stood for different causes, they stood to give a voice for freedom for their people and bringing in prosperity.

With regard to Irom Sharmila Chanu’s stand against AFSPA, rewards and awards are not her main objective wherein she has refused to sway from the option of taking up a normal life thereby hanging on to the idea of a never ending fast until her cause is achieved. While she is continuously renamed as the “Iron Lady of Manipur”, are we really willing to ignore the Right to Life and Personal Liberty as given in Article 21 of our Constitution which seemingly provides for the most important right guaranteed to its citizen from a nation? Does the idea of being force fed and arrest and re – arrest even come under the categories of fundamental rights? She is a woman who has taken up a stand that is in need of a political solution. Even after being released from her makeshift prison following a sessions court decision up recently, she has been arrested again three days after her release following the decision of the authority holding that it is their duty to protect the citizen being more important. With a deteriorating health in issue, she still continues to battle the authority of a nation in exercising AFSPA and questions its misdeeds in the past, present and those that may happen in the years to come.

Fourteen (14) years down the line and we still continue to stand watch to a large number of human rights being violated. Where did the duty to protect go during those times? These small actions might become uncommon to ignore but a little thing can lead into other major human sufferings thus abiding that the guild of military forces killing innocent people are okay. When there are no corrections, it tends to give rise to more dictatorship. Democracy also states implicitly of its rule to protect the people through the people’s elect, are we correcting and shaping the very definition of democracy by establishing more authority to this controversial legislation, which was passed in several states of the north – east India and several parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Instead of building more authority into the draconian rule of the AFSPA, the Centre should focus more on constructing a statute that might make a women feel a little safer to travel alone, tackle health issues in the ignored villages of the capital. What should go away should go in due time? The question is – Is there even an end cause to the evils of the Act? And while everyone fumbles around not wanting to answer the question, a lone woman still continues her fight.

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