The State deputy Chief Minister’s appeal to Sharmila, to end her fast is not going to work. 14 years stand testimony to why it would not work. A perfunctory appeal on a public platform is not going to affect someone who has been shunning her two square meals for more than 5000 days. Agreed that Sharmila’s life is precious for the people of the State, and it is the responsibility of the government to look after her. However, this does not mean that the State should use unrestrained force to overpower a harmless hunger striker, caring little for her modesty; and even causing physical injury to her. Needless to say, this is just a manifestation of how the State takes care of its people. Furthermore, the deputy CM is seemingly on the brink of abdicating his statesmanship by urging Sharmila to take the lead in convincing ‘others’ to leave the path of violence. Who are these ‘others’ taking the path of violence? There is not much room for ambiguity here. One can safely assume that the deputy CM was referring to those who are part of the armed movements, which has been part of our political reality for more than three decades. This is ironical considering that the State has been on denial mode to register that there is armed conflict in this region. Rather ‘law and order problem’ has been a comfortable cover up for the denial. Repeated appeals have also been made in the past to the armed groups operating in the State to come to the table for dialogue. There is still little sign of all armed groups coming out for talk; except for some groups which are currently engaged in the so called suspension of operation. The State cannot shirk away from its responsibility of addressing the issue of armed conflict. A sincere political-will, both on part of the State and the central government, is necessary to bring about a solution to the ongoing conflict. Sharmila should not be dragged in to bear the onus which is on the State. It is common knowledge that the State has already devised a way to challenge the order of the Session Judge, who quashed the charge against Sharmila of attempting suicide on August 19. The State Home department has already issued official order to the public prosecutor of the High Court to draft petition against the judgment of the District and Session Judge, Manipur East. Most probably Sharmila is going to be indicted under the same section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Beyond doubt, the State may use its entitlement to take legal course of action by petitioning to a higher appellate court. There is no easier way to stifle Sharmila than to charge her with any available section under the law, and confine her within four walls. But then, Sharmila’s supporters have rightly said that her thoughts and ideology cannot be suppressed. The State, not ready to acknowledge this, is sinking in a quagmire of its own making.
Leader writer: Senate Kh