My long association with Sharmila has always supported me in struggles of my life, personal, professional and political. Sharmila is not just an icon for me for her 16 years of hunger strike, instead a little closer, as a person, as a human being with whom I received lots of inspiration. Being a citizen who has always lived in Hindi speaking regions like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Delhi, Manipur was just an isolated Indian state on the Indian map for me. I never read much about this state during my academics and not even found myself much associated, till the time I started reading and working on AFSPA, Undoubtedly, Sharmila was one of the inspiring force behind this and probably it was her who acted as connecting point between me and Manipur more strongly. I got to know many others who were working for human rights in Manipur and they all inspired me more and more as I found them so thoughtful and committed for human rights.
Now, when Sharmila changed mode of her struggle and considered to join the more powerful struggle of bringing change in the state, it once again brought her in the mainstream challenge for those who always considered the state and its politics as their personal commodity. Though I am not aligned to any political party, but Sharmila’s struggle and a long association with her always gives a positive note to me and sends a good signal for new path of state politics in Manipur.
Having a new party as PRJA that emerged as peoples’ party through its election fund collections by general public, campaigning door to door and has leadership of someone who has a track record of struggling for people; it is true that PRJA does not require a massive and fancy ‘advertisement’ for being recognized as political entity. This is when Manipur Election Watch and Association for Democratic Reforms brought facts that there are 54 crorepati candidates out of 167 from 6 national parties, 5 state parties, 6 unrecognised parties and 14 independent candidates.
As a regional political group, PRJA seems progressive enough in terms of its attempt to bring Najima Bibi as its candidate despite much oppose. Sharmila’s candidature itself is a symbol of party’s thoughts of progressiveness and of breaking stereotypes where such candidatures were never sought and expected earlier. People of Manipur who sometimes faced discrimination in other parts of country know very well that our society is affected with stereotypical thinking and to get rid off from it at all layers of society, is an important thing for social progress.
This resurgence and justice alliance may or may not come as ruling party in near future, but to have such political parties in state will definitely benefit politics of the state as well as society there. Contesting election is definitely a challenge and to let people know that clean politics is something they all needed , is what should be the objective.
Manipur is a place of revolution, but a bad human rights track record in past years. From Malom to Manorama and from Oinam to many others told and untold stories of victimization, continue knocks door of justice. There are cases pending even in Apex court, AFSPA still continues. Already existed and established political parties probably failed to raise voice on behalf of victims, various local differences already creating disturbances and blockades and all such things need to be converted in to action oriented approach of alternative politics. As, PRJA openly talks and advocates human rights and an emerging group, it only has to protect itself from vested interest of ‘traditional’ politicians. The way it is moving ahead, is innovative and interesting and may pave the way towards politics of change.
At a time when new district creations, ILP and Naga Accord may have major topics in election debate of Manipur, people there must not forget that resolving these issues would be required a calm approached leader who believe in reconciliation and non violence. People are wise enough to choose their representative through voting system, but they should have more and more opportunity to participate in such a process where they can have opportunity to elect someone who is one among them, who fought for them and upon whom they can have trust.
(The writer was the Convenor of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign which was dissolved recently)