On 9th August, another history was created. ‘Another’, because first was created in 1942 during Quit India Movement when Gandhi along with his companions was arrested by British. On this 9th August, here in Manipur, Irom Sharmila who moved on the path of non violence (Gandhi was also a follower of non violence) for 16 years (since the year 2000 to the year 2016), tried to bring her struggle in another form through quitting her 16 years long hunger fast.
During my various meetings with Sharmila, in JNIMS security ward and in Delhi during her stay and court hearings, we both talked on various issues. Despite the long time of 16 years, her smile remained the same and it actually worked as encouragement for us. I remember when she told that she wanted to remain a common person and not a hero or eminent one. Though her unique struggle made her hero of millions of people across globe, but she is too down to earth to be affected with this heroism.
I salute people of Manipur, specially those who supported her all the time. I remember my visit to Imphal when she had completed 15 years. I found a huge undercurrent support for her. A day long agitation was organized at more than 10 places in Imphal. Students from school participated and many of them even did not break their fast till evening. Few of them also told me that their parents are doing fast at home in support of Sharmila. I also salute incredible struggle of women members of Save Sharmila group who started a relay fast near JNIMS in her support and continued with it. I salute efforts of women members who had their protest before Kangla Fort to let the government know seriousness of situation.
In addition to Irom Sharmila, there are so many efforts and voices that matters for Manipur and they all are powerful with the most important commonality of being non violent. Sharmila’s struggle achieved a success in terms of bringing out many more voices from Manipur. With the consistency of her struggle and efforts of her supporters, it soon came out of state and spread across world. When we asked Sharmila once about what she thinks about government when it is not fulfilling her demand? She replied, ‘I have full faith in democracy’.
Now, when she changed her path of struggle, she is again hopeful with democracy and announced to adopt path of electoral democracy. Her path may be difficult, but not unachievable. Even regardless of the fact that she will win or lose, her attempt has reflected flexibility and readiness of negotiation to achieve the objective.
On the other hand, government did not change its position from its single point strategy ‘policy of ignorance’. This rigidness of the government is actually its non compliance towards respecting people’s desire. In this way, Irom Sharmila has once again proved desires, paths and strategies of Manipuri people more democratic than the state.
Suddenly after announcement of Sharmila to leave the fast and to join active politics, news coverage for her dramatically increased, but with many angles. Discussing her personal decisions like marriage, death threats to her, some disagreement with family and few supporters are few topics in media. Some also talked about unavailability of space for her stay. I know that everything talked in such way is not true as Manipur is not a place of narrow mindedness. But even if it is true, I am sure that you all will resolve it soon. Manipur is the place where warriors fought for people, for each other and protected it. Sharmila is one of the warrior among many in Manipur and she will definitely face challenges and will overcome on the same land, on her motherland.
Sharmila in her writing says
“I will spread the fragrance of peace,
From Kanglei, my birthplace,
In the ages to come,
It will spread all over the world”
Though Sharmila is needed at all places, I know, wherever she will be, she will live Kanglei in her heart and people will be attached with her memories. She must be recognized for her identity as human being and she must have all freedom to exercise her rights, choice, liberty and desires in her personal and political issues. What she did till all these 16 years was not a joke and was not for herself. Let’s start carrying this struggle forward collectively now.
(Views expressed are personal) (Ravi Nitesh is the Convener of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, New Delhi. He can be reached at www.ravinitesh.blogspot.in)