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Over 9 shocking years now..?

April 1, 2010

Last week I met a couple of activists from Manipur. We were having some casual talks about the Insurgency and general lifestyle in N.E. when one of them mentioned about Sharmila. The fact that I had never heard about this lady, surprised (rather shocked) them.

“Are you serious, you have never heard of Sharmila?” one of them asked.
“How is that possible? She has been on hunger strike for 9 years and 4 months now” said another.

9 years and 4 months of Hunger strike? How is that possible, I asked!

I was so sure they would have mistaken days for years and hours for months. How could that be possible? And I came back and searched for ‘Sharmila 10 years’. Out came news items, Irom Sharmila, from Manipur, has been on hunger strike for over 9 years now. The more I read about her, the harder it became for me to think clearly.

How did it start? It began on November 1, 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, when 10 innocent people (including one of a 62-year old woman and 18-year old boy a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner) who were waiting for their buses at a bus station were gunned down by the AFSPA (Assam rifles, having special powers including that to kill without questioning). The incident is said to be one of the endless killing spree by the Indian armed forces in Manipur since 1958. Soon afterwards, the people of Manipur, agitated and demanded a magisterial inquiry into the incident. The army, using the unperturbed authority given to them by AFSPA, disallowed any such inquiry, leaving the people of Manipur frustrated and helpless yet again. This led Sharmila, then only 28, to launch her hunger strike against the widespread repression unleashed against the people of Manipur by the Indian state. Her demand: Repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from the regions of India’s north east where AFSPA has been imposed.

Since then, it’s been over 9 years now, Sharmila has been under a ritual of release and arrest every year because under IPC section 309, a person who “attempt to commit suicide” is punishable “with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year. She has been kept alive on the constant painful nasogastric intubation (filled with vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup) and in solitary confinement as a high security prisoner for almost ten years. The ritual of release and rearrest is still continuing.

And the protest is valid. May be it is required for AFSPA to be stationed in NE, but who gives them authority to commit atrocities. “In 2004, on July 15 morning a dozen Manipuri women staging a demonstration near the fort suddenly decided to do away with their clothes. They were protesting against the alleged torture, rape and killing of 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama by AFSPA… “, an incident more than sufficient to convince anyone of the atrocities being committed

A news article in 2009 said – “For months children in Manipur have not attended school or college. There is violence, curfew and an aggravation of the perennial shortages that this land-locked city not far from the border of Myanmar faces even in so-called normal times. The 25 lakh citizens of the state of Manipur have seen little or no development for years while the rest of India, apparently, marches ahead.”

Every year on 31st of March, Sharmila is released by police (as the arrest can extend to maximum of one year). Every year on being released she gets crowded by thousands of women from all over the state. She is feeble and can hardly speak. After taking rest for sometime, she musters all energy and talks about the struggle and continues her hunger strike. After two to three days of her release she is arrested again on similar charges and forced fed through her nostrils for another year.

Since 28, she has spent best 10 years of her life taking in constant painful nasogastric intubation, not having eaten anything, fighting every single day for Manipur and its people. As I write this, nothing but my helplessness dons a bigger and bigger picture. I just hope to see her one day, and see her soon.

In case interested in reading more on Insurgency read this article in Tehelka newspaper –

8 Comments leave one →
  1. April 2, 2010 04:18

    Very sorry state .. but what is the need of forces there ?? Is it for the reason that they demand a separate nation ??


    • Consty permalink*
      April 2, 2010 04:45

      Yes, in some states yes. One of the main reasons for insurgency goes back to how these states were united with Indian union. Others are how these states are treated by Indian Govt. For ex: Although Assam produces one-fourth of the petroleum for India, the whole thing is processed outside just so that Assam does not receive any revenues. In case interested this <> gives a very clear picture of why the seven sisters as they are called are partly unhappy the Union.
      However, its very clear that AFSPA tactics will only further alienate the people and they should stop committing atrocities. There are few cases against AFSPA that are as old as 9 years and still pending in supreme court.


  2. April 3, 2010 01:28

    Dedicating your life to bring about a change, to open some minds is not an easy thing to do in these states… It is sad that she has been on the strike for almost 10 years now and nothing much has been done about the issue…


    • Consty permalink*
      April 4, 2010 16:01

      I am coming to believe thats its more for self benefaction (not talking about motivation)… Its sad but i think the world wld have been even if people like Gandhi, King Luther, Bose, Lincoln were not there… A pessimistic viewpoint…


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    upper! Come on over and seek advice from my web site .
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