By Pankaj Pathak
Irom Sharmila’s name symbolizes with sacrifice and compassion and she is truly the unsung hero of not only India but also of the world when it comes to peace and harmony. She is the sole torch bearer of values and path shown by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of nation for demanding one’s rights in the most polite and democratic manner but still she is a victim of ignorance of nation and government who observes 2nd Oct as most auspicious day in history of our democracy and country. She deserves the title “Daughter of nation”, for her courage and grit for fighting on behalf of people’s causes while her life is on stake. Biographically, she has a name as civil rights activist and poet from Manipur, fasting from last 12 years with the demand of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to be repealed. But another unnoticed human angle of her is that, she is also a lady who must have had dreams of living a life like every other woman. Ironically this dream for her became insignificant when an incident happened in “Malom, Manipur, Nov, 2000” in which 10 innocent citizens including women and children were killed by Assam Rifles unit responding to an earlier attack by the armed insurgents against the Assam Rifles. This particular incident had transformed the mind of Irom and she started her fast-to-death hunger strike thereafter. It has been more than a decade but the resolve and grit of the “Iron lady” remained intact with her demand of repealing AFSPA. This continuing struggle of her for the justice and rights of people shows the compassion and value of every human life in her heart and mind. However the government is defying her demands and the toll of human casualty both of civilians and armed forces in insurgency hit states are on rise, reflecting the insensitivity for human life and lack of political will of every elected government to resolve this issue. The saddest part is that judiciary in which we still have faith on is also looking hand in hand on this issue with government and amongst civil societies those who espoused Irom’s demand but have been appalled by zero reaction on the name of AFSPA being issue of a national security.
Induction of AFSPA was to restore order and discipline but instead it turned few arm-force personals autocratic with largesse of power. As a result of such unchecked empowerment, their actions no longer have redeeming values as acts of discipline because they have done enough damage to the respect for a societal institution of democracy, human rights and governance. Therefore the government should understand that reconsidering the AFSPA and paying heed to Irom’s demand would send a message across the insurgents about the empowerment of the non violent and democratic manner of protest for the demand of rightful causes. Nevertheless, the military should also be part of decision making along with government and reaching to a permanent solution of insurgency hit areas by the removal of AFSPA without consultation may adversely affect the moral of armed forces. However, it seems that some quarters of political fraternity and armed forces are not willing to resolve the problem for some political mileage and are dragging this issue for decades and slowly making people’s mind to live with it as it seems never ending. But, we are fortunate to have the hope and inspiration in the form of Irom to fight and we need to stand behind her and demand our rights of freedom to live a fearless life. For humanity, communal harmony, love, compassion and most importantly reclaiming our democratic and constitutional rights, we need to come together and fight for our demands along with Irom. I would also like to pay homage to the all the lives lost during insurgency and end up here with a inquisitive quote by Julian Assange, founder, spokesperson, internet activist, and editor in chief of Wiki Leaks, “Every time we witness an injustice and do not act, we train our character to be passive in its presence and thereby eventually lose all ability to defend ourselves and those we love.”
Pankaj Pathak is in the National committee of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC). I am a Medical Researcher in AIIMS, New Delhi and a core member of Mission Bhartiyam, an organization working on Peace, environment and human rights.