September 21, 2011

About Irom Sharmila Chanu..

I am futile to understand the approach of our political parties. Anna Hazare ji’s stirred up the whole nation into action to support his cause. Each and every one of us was concerned for his life (we should be concerned after all he is fighting for us) but may I know why this concern is not shown to Irom Sharmila Chanu?

Irom Sharmila Chanu & Anna Hazare both have the ability to fast indefinitely for what they perceive is right. The 38 years lady is fasting since November 02, 2000; yes you read it right she has been fasting for the past ELEVEN years and what a shame we barely know about it. She has been struggling in a small room in Imphal. Far away from the glare of studio lights of television channels and tangled wires of a hundred microphones, in the hilly haven of Manipur.

She stopped eating when Assam Rifles troopers, while chasing militants, killed 10 villagers at Malom village. She was then arrested and now being force – fed through a nasal tube in a hospital. Guys its now 11 year-long hunger strike and no one is concerned.

Our central government , political parties of all hue and colors, our electronic and print media , our intellectuals and conscience – so called keepers of our India and various NGOs, working in different sectors , all  either ignored her or didn’t show concern . National Human Rights Commission [ NHRC ] and National Commission for Women [ NCW ] are interestingly silent too . SHAMEFUL..Isn’t it?

May be because she hails from Manipur -North East part of India? Or may be her life not precious enough? Is she a child of a lesser God? May be because she didn’t performed the stint in the Jantar Mantar-heart of the India’s capital New Dehli?

Chanu is demanding the Government of India to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from Manipur and other areas of India’s north-east. I guess her fast is the longest political protest of its kind in history and in any part of the world. She has not eaten anything, or drunk a single drop of water since NOVEMBER, 2000 and has been forcibly kept alive by nasogastric tubation.

She has not combed her hair, nor looked at the mirror and uses a dry cotton to clean her teeth. Her body is wasted inside, her menstrual cycles have stopped. She removes the nasogastric tube at the slightest opportunity available.

On Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 09:46 GMT BBC had carried a report on this epic fast wherein it had declared the worsening condition of her health : “Doctors say her fasting is now having a direct impact on her body’s normal functioning – her bones have become brittle and she has developed other medical problems too."

In an interview she proudly said, “It is not a punishment, but my bounden duty towards the people of Manipur, the people of North-East, the people who are not considered to belong to the ‘mainland’ India.”

In 2000 barely two weeks before she began fasting Chanu(28 then) had joined the anti-AFSPA movement. She was a volunteer in the workshops and discussions organized by the 3-member Indian People’s Inquiry Committee (IPIC) headed by Justice H Suresh which went around hearing tales of injustice and violence from the victims. During the IPIC inquiry, she was shaken by the statement of a young girl who was raped by the security forces at Lamden village.She and two other women volunteers had privately talked to that girl.

On 1st November 2000, a rebellious group had bombed an army column which enraged them. The 8th Assam Rifles retaliated by gunning down 10 innocent civilians at a bus-stand in Malom. The local papers published brutal pictures of the bodies the next day, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner.

This incident termed as the ‘Malom Massacre’. The army declared that the civilians were killed in an encounter with the dissatisfied who were about to bomb a parliamentary convoy. Though, the locals had a different tale to tell, which clearly went unheard.

‘Malom Massacre’ was nothing new for the people in Manipur as they had witnessed similar cold-blooded killings before when the security forces would go crazy and kill ordinary people,

“Chanu could not bear the sight of the blood spilled on the street. She observed her weekly fast on Thursdays since her childhood, she fasted on that critical Thursday and the same fast continues till date”, says her brother Irom Singhajit.

Chanu went to seek mother’s blessings on 4 November, 2000 because she wanted to do something for the people. She returned to the site of blood-bath and declared her resolution to fast-unto-death till AFSPA is withdrawn.

Chanu says, “I was shocked to see the dead bodies. There was no means to stop further violations by the armed forces. Fast is the most effective way because it is based on a spiritual fight. My fast is on behalf of the people of Manipur. This is not a personal battle, it is symbolic. It is a symbol of truth, love and peace”.

Armed Forces Special Powers ‘DRACONIAN ACT’, 1958 (AFSPA) yet continues to exist. It came into force in 1980, sadly according to official figures more than 25,000 people have been killed in Manipur alone.
In 2009, Manipur’s Director General of Police, Mr Joy Kumar Singh, openly stated in an interview that his officers had killed more than 260 persons in 11 months, insisting they were all ‘TERRORISTS’.

The Tehelka report reads – ‘Rather than curb insurgent groups, it has engendered a seething resentment across the land, and fostered new militancy’s.’

There were only four insurgent groups in Manipur, today there are more than 25 on the government’s own watch-list. This Act has practically given the military extraordinary powers to do their will as it prohibits any legal or judicial proceeding against any army personnel without the previous authorize of the Central Government.

It has rushed away from the people the right to protest, the right to legal redress against atrocities or right of any lawful democratic activity. Ordinary innocent persons can be easily labeled as ‘TERRORISTS’ and ‘SUSPECTS’ and taken into custody.

Most of the democratic activists who report about the immoderation by the Army or have demanded an end of the Army rule are picked up, tortured and killed. The North-Eastern States of India have been forced to live under an undeclared emergency or defacto military rule for past five decades.

The area is literally being ruled by three governments: the state government, the insurgent government and the army of the state, and the common people are sandwiched in between.

It has destroyed the lives of a generation of North-Eastern people by stealing away their freedom and creativity, curbed their prosperity and growth.

Chanu was arrested on third day after she started fasting, on charges of ‘attempt to suicide’ which is punishable by 309 section of the Indian Penal Code. The administration began force-feeding her nasally and confined her to the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.

The offence of ‘attempt to suicide’ is bailable and the maximum sentence cannot exceed one year. She refused to break her fast or seek bail.

She is released by the court on completion of one year and is re-arrested with 2-3 days of her release under same charges. This has become a yearly ritual and cycle still continues.

In 2006, after her release from ‘yearlong custody’ in October, her supporters literally smuggled her out of Imphal to Delhi by escaping the security personnel with the hope of making her ‘regional’ campaign into a ‘national’ one.

When she visited Mahatma Gandhi’s samadhi at Rajghat and she told a journalist (The Telegraph,October 05, 2006), “I want to tell the people of India that if Mahatma Gandhi were alive today, he would have launched a movement against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. My appeal to the citizens of the country is to join the campaign against the army act,”

After that she was arrested by the police and shut in a ward of AIIMS with security personnel posted outside her door who would not allow anyone inside.

While Anna Hazare ji became the centre of media attention before he started the fast, and celebrities conveniently grabbed the opportunity to hog some more limelight and media sympathy, Shamefully  Chanu’s struggle came to light only in 2004, when media covered the news of mothers and Manipuri women stripping themselves naked in front of Assam Rifles headquarters in Imphal and held banners proclaiming “Come Indian Army, Rape Us” in protest of the brutal rape and murder of young woman activist Thangjam Manorama Devi by Assam Rifles personnel.

Just because it is ‘not a part of mainland India’, women had to do a bare-all stint before catching the media eyeballs?

Chanu does not seem to be edging anywhere close to her demand, but she surely has lost much in the provisional. Her brother lost a government job because he chose to remain on her side, the family had to go bankrupt.

Irom Sakhi’s (Sharmila’s mother) sacrifice stands tall among all else. She has never met her daughter since she blessed her on the momentous day when she undertook her fast.

Irom Sakhi, with tears in her eyes told a correspondent: “It is just possible that my getting emotional on seeing her may weaken her resolve. And I do not want that my daughter lose in this battle, which is for the betterment of humanity.”

Chanu was nominated for the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize by a Guwahati-based woman’s organization. In 2010 she was again nominated by ‘Science and Rationalists’ Association of India and Humanist Association demanded that Irom Sharmila Chanu again for Nobel Peace Prize.

When she was awarded the Gwangju prize for Human Rights, 2007, she said “My struggle is not for the sake of fame or award.”

Nobel Laureate and human rights activist Shirin Ebadi, has also supported Chanu’s cause and said “If Sharmila dies, Parliament is directly responsible. If she dies, courts and judiciary are responsible, the military is responsible… If she dies, the executive, the PM and President are responsible for doing nothing… If she dies, each one of you journalists is responsible because you did not do your duty…”

And what does our government have to say about this?

In response to the recommendations by the Jeevan Reddy Commission which was set up in 2004 after the Manorama protests, Pranab Mukherjee, then defence minister said that it is impossible to repeal the Act as the military cannot function without these powers. And thus we all choose to shut our eyes to the atrocities continuing in the North-East, in a part which does not belong to the Mainland India!

I am pained, angry and annoyed because I can’t do anything apart from writing this blog which will be read by a few readers.

If central government can talk to separatists of Hurriyat Conference of Jammu & Kashmir,  if our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh can send letter to Anna ji , informing him that the resolution is passed by the parliament and request him to break his fast.  WHY then it can talk to Irom Sharmila Chanu also?

12 days of Anna’s fast is too much but 11 years of Irom Sharmila’s fast is a lifetime, isn’t it?

Something should be done.. Chanu’s  struggle does not just shield the human rights in Manipur, but it is redesigning the very foundations of democracy in India...

Shameful Indian:
-K Himaanshu Shukla

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  1. i m wordless.i have already read this in different newspapers and blogs but thanks to you that u have collected this much material.this is truth of our armed force.kashmir,sikkim,asam and all border and north east area ppl seen thr real faces.and govt is shameless.

  2. amazing article...11 year's struggle has no value.??.sad bt can't hope much frm dis shameless gov...

  3. really shameful !! i think IndiaAgainstCorruption campaign need to have broader view towards nation and put the light on this matter also as they have media attention and huge supporters...if they do so then there is a hope otherwise no hope from government.

  4. thanks 4 sharing this info khs

  5. North-East is the worst affected territory in India.
    If we do not have such stringent acts then it would be very difficult to control insurgency, militancy, Maoists, protests for separate state, china’s insurgency. Its all messed up there...
    I feel sorry for her loss but she has got it all wrong with her protest all these years..her struggle and efforts are waste as they are in completely wrong direction...

  6. PUBLICITY - It sometimes decides the wrong and right , What is happening right now is just unethical , profit-based journalism .

  7. amazing article khs


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