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Sunday, August 21, 2011
UNSUNG-KARMAYOGINI-Irom Chanu Sharmila, Tribute:The Other Half - Another India, another protest!
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Kalpana Sharma, The Hindu /
August 20, 2011.
Lone battle: Irom Sharmila, force-fed and kept alive by the State. Photo: The Hindu Photo Library.
While the farcical drama around Anna Hazare's protest and arrest has hogged the limelight, Irom Sharmila's indefinite fast since 2000 to get the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) repealed continues to be ignored by the nation and the media…
A day after Indians ‘celebrated' Independence Day by following the annual ritual of hoisting the flag, singing the national anthem and patriotic songs and listening to politicians, including the Prime Minister, talk about the strengths of Indian democracy, the police cracked down on a much-celebrated campaigner against corruption, Anna Hazare and his team.
The drama that followed his arrest and that of others in his team, the growing protests, the late night release and then Anna's refusal to be released was not just farcical; it was a pitiful display of a government with no respect for people's right to protest and no strategy to deal with those who demand that right. In one day, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government managed to unite the opposition. Even those who do not subscribe to every aspect of Hazare's campaign, such as his demand that only his team's formulation of the Lok Pal Bill be accepted, strongly condemned the government's actions. On August 16, Anna Hazare successfully “arrested” the UPA government.
Yet even as Hazare's anti-corruption crusade gained momentum with hundreds courting voluntary arrest, in another part of India, a protestor who has used a similar tactic, of going on an indefinite fast, continues to be ignored by the rest of the country and by the political leadership.
Beacon of hope
And here, since November 2000, a 38-year-old woman, Irom Sharmila, has been on an indefinite fast demanding withdrawal of AFSPA. She is under arrest and is being force-fed by the government in a public hospital in Imphal. Every year she is released, and then re-arrested. Yet, this woman of unimaginable courage will simply not give up. And by holding on to her resolve, she holds up a small candle of hope for the people of her state. A hope that people will notice, that her determination will be recognised, that the current government, which in its earlier term had promised to look again at AFSPA, will not break one more promise.