Irom Sharmila’s 11 Years v/s Anna Hazare’s 12 Days


MUMBAI – MAHARASHTRA – INDIA             SEPTEMBER 06, 2011           08.30 P.M.

I am all for eradication of corruption. And if Anna Hazare is spear-heading a movement and went for a 12 days fast for the cause , it is a welcome sign and it should get wholehearted support of the nation and people. Government of the day and the parliament took cognizance of his endeavour and parliamentarians cutting across party line went into huddle and passed the resolution for the Lokpal bill , as was demanded by Team Anna . Vilas Rao Deshmukh , a central minister , was dispatched to the Ramlila ground with the letter of the Prime Minister of India Dr. Manmohan Singh , informing him that the resolution is passed by the parliament and that he should now break his fast. Very next day Ana Hazare ended his fast and the nation was relieved.

I fail to understand the mindset of our national and regional parties. If Anna’s fast can galvanize whole nation and everyone was concerned for his life, why this concern is not shown to Irom Sharmila Chanu , 38 , who is fasting since November 02 , 2000. She stopped eating when Assam Rifles troopers , while chasing militants , killed 10 villagers at Malom village . She was subsequently arrested and now being force – fed through a nasal tube in a hospital. It is now 11 year-long hunger strike and no one is concerned. The central government , political parties of all hue and colours , the electronic and print media , the intellectuals and conscience – keepers of our country 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 intriguingly silent too . Why ? Is it because she hails from North East India or more precisely from Manipur ? is her life not precious enough ? Is she a child of a lesser God ? Is she not even a speck in the scheme of the nation called India ?

Irom Sharmila Chanu

Irom Sharmila Chanu

India’s neglected North East Region and our so-called love for our motherland is a conundrum. Assam , Arunachal Pradesh , Meghalaya , Nagaland , Manipur ,Tripura and Mizoram are called 7 sisters and they are part of  North East India. Now Sikkim is also  part of the North East and should be included in the group . This makes total 8 provinces in the region.

Political boundary of Assam in the 1950s.

Political boundary of Assam in the 1950s.

Apart from Assam , two other provinces of North East ; Manipur and Tripura were in existence even at the time of independence . Later on Nagaland was created in 1963 and finally in 1972 during Indira Gandhi‘s tenure Arunachal Pradesh , Meghalaya and Mizoram came into existence and thus 7 sisters were born. Sikkim also became a part of India in 1975 during Indira Gandhi’s tenure.

Map of the Seven Sister States of North East India & Sikkim

Map of the Seven Sister States of North East India & Sikkim

NAGALAND :

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Soon after independence , people in Nagaland and Mizoram started agitation for independence. Armed struggle is being carried on since then. The Nagas were the first one to demand a sovereign nation for Nagas. Their leader Angami Zapu Phizo formed Naga National Council and on August 14, 1947 started armed struggle for independent Nagalim. In 1963 central government gave statehood to Nagaland as the 16th state of Indian Union and started peace talks. In 1980 National Socialist Council of Nagalim was formed by T. Muivah , Isak Swu and S. Khaplang and they are still fighting in Nagaland , though now they are devided into two separate factions.; NSCN [ I – M ] and NSCN [ Khaplang ] . So far more than 25,000 lives have been lost in the bloody struggle of Nagaland.

MIZORAM :

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Laldenga and his Mizo National Front waged war for independence in Mizoram. In 1986 after the Mizo Accord, though,  insurgency ended but Hmar People’s Convention – Democratic and The Bru National Liberation Front have kept the flame alive.

MEGHALAYA :

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Meghalaya , though , relatively peaceful have two organizations fomenting trouble . They are ; The Achik National Volunteer Council formed in 1995 for an Achik Land in Garo Hills and  The Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council formed in 1992 to free state from Garo and non – tribal Indian domination.

TRIPURA :

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At the end of 1970 several insurgent groups emerged in Tripura and started fight for the safeguard of tribal rights and end of the dominance of Bengalis from mainland India. Main among them are : National Liberation Front of Tripura formed in 1989 and All Tripura Tigers Force formed in 1990 .

ASSAM :

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The biggest state of North East India is troubled because of porous borders with Bangladesh . Anti – foreign agitation of 1980 spawned many insurgent groups in Assam. Main among them are : United Liberation Front of Asom formed in 1979 to establish a sovereign , independent Assam , National Democratic Front of Bodoland formed in 1989 to establish autonomous region of Bodoland , Karbi Longri N.C. Hills Liberation Front  formed in 2004 to fight for the cause of Karbi tribes and United People’s Democratic Solidarity formed in 1999 to fight for self-rule of Karbi trbes of Karbi Anglong. At present Assam is the most disturbed state of North East.

MANIPUR :

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State of Meiteis , who are Vaishnavites by faith , is also troubled and it started when some Naga organizations gave call to include Naga inhabited areas of Manipur into Greater Nagaland. Most important insurgent group of Manipur is Peoples Liberation Army formed in 1978 with the sole aim of liberating Manipur from India . The second one ; United National Liberation Front was created in 1964 and it also demands independence . Third important group ; Peoples Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak is also an organization of some importance demanding independence from Indian rule.

Above mentioned facts are very basic and known history of the insurgency in the North Eastern Region. To counter these movements and armed struggles , Government of India promulgated AFSPA  , [ Armed Forces Special Powers Act ] of 1958 in the region. This act gives sweeping powers to armed forces. It gives them license to kill . Currently AFSPA is in force in Assam , Nagaland , Manipur [ barring some areas in and around Imphal , the capital of the state ] , 2 districts of Arunachal Pradesh [ Tirap and Changlang ] and some areas of Tripura .

People of North East resent the draconian AFSPA and they want its removal . Removal of AFSPA is demanded in Jammu & Kashmir also. I am intrigued that  removal of AFSPA is being considered sympathetically by the central government in Jammu & Kashmir but when it comes to Manipur or other areas of North East it is refused point blank. Recently Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram visited Manipur and said that since there is no consensus , so AFSPA cant be removed. Was there consensus about Anna Hazare’s demand in the beginning ? Everyone sat and consensus emerged. If consensus could be manufactured in Anna’s case , why can’t it be done in the case of Irom Sharmila Chanu ? Anna’s fast is hailed as the democratic right of citizen of this country and his subsequent victory is heralded as the sign of vibrant democracy but Irom Sharmila’s fast is viewed as sedition. Anna got all the sympathy and Irom Sharmila got indifference.

Is it sign of vibrant democracy that people of Manipur had to agitate for the creation of a new district ; Sadar Hills ? Mayawati , the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh , creates districts at her whims and fancies and central government acquiesces. But in Manipur a tribal organization resorted to economic blockade for creation of Sadar Hills and no one took cognizance. A sense of outrage engulfed me when I saw a photo of a group of women protesting naked for the removal of AFSPA. Still no cognizance was taken. Insensitive central government ignores all the above mentioned demands , though the method was pure Gandhian , but the same government is willing to talk to the militants of Jammu & Kashmir for the removal of AFSPA . Can anyone explain me the cause for this partiality? If central government has no qualms in talking to Syed Ali Shah Geelani , Yasin Malik or other leaders of separatist Hurriyat Conference , then what is the hitch in talking to Irom Sharmila Chanu , who is not a militant or not resorting to armed struggle ? Of late talks are going on with ULFA leaders of Assam and NSCN [ I – M ] of Nagaland , who are waging armed struggle against Indian Union, but the silent , non – violent and peaceful movement of Irom Sharmil and the other women of Manipur is completely ignored.

I am pained , aggrieved and outraged . I can’t do much because I am too insignificant. But I firmly believe that if central government can talk to separatists of Hurriyat Conference of Jammu & Kashmir , then it can talk to Irom Sharmila Chanu also. If government of India can work out modalities for the breaking of the fast of Anna Hazare , then it can work out something for Irom Sharmila also. If consensus was evolved for Anna’s cause , it could be evolved for Irom Sharmila’s cause also. 12 days of Anna’s fast is too much but 11 years of Irom Sharmila’s fast is a lifetime.

Something should be done and it should be done soon.

Irom Sharmila Chanu

Irom Sharmila Chanu

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4 Responses

  1. good description and justified in comparing the two. Almost all of us, in the valley and hills, want the draconian AFSPA to be removed completely from the state, Manipur. From every part of the country where it is existed from kashmir to AP, Assam, Nagaland, etc. No doubt about the removal on humanitarian and human rights ground. I don’t kw about others, but regarding Manipur, it is quite ambiguous. The politics here is very dirty. This is the ground reality played among a interconnected web consisting of criminal-turned corrupt politicians-underground organisations and civil society groups.

    Most of the outsiders got stuck in emotional side as regard to either Sharmila’s 11 years long peaceful fast or stories of Manorama’s killing (2004) that was the most the obvious sign of misuse of the Act which gives the name, “Draconian” or both. But people here who are protesting seems to be guided by anti-outsiders, anti-mayang(which is the typical nature of most of us)feelings…. imposing a law on us.

    And when that law showed its negative sides, people’s anger bursted out and still in making aiming for a huge fireball which is to the advantage of those mongering for so-called sovereignty. I have a point to say this, let us compare who is the real enemy of the people, our own Manipur Commandos or The Indian Army in Manipur!
    Records and experienced clearly indicates that it is the former which has violated in much more scale than the latter- be it fake encounters/ extra-judicial killings, torture, intimidation in the past 6-7 years.

    the protest in Manipur is not to be taken as innocent protest. If Hazzare’s protest and methods for a larger cause, “corruption” can be criticised, so also the method of any protest. Yes, AFSPA IS TO BE REMOVED as soon as possible. But can any of you, or among us guarantee that the violence and unrest in the valley and state in general will be reduce and it will lead a normalisation in the state. The act is not in Imphal since 2004, can you say that Imphal is normal, peaceful or people are enjoying their freedoms? Still press is restricted, no freedom for them, huge inequality, police personnels are still violated rights of citizens, who will protest for this after AFSPA is out? Those who protested in Delhi recently turned out to be from Imphal and sorrounding areas where there is no AFSPA.

    I am arguing that AFSPA is to be removed since the authorities misused it several times in the name of curbing insurgency which is wrong (it is a wrong policy because insurgency in Manipur has become a larger part of Manipur’s society and its political system). But at the same time its removal is to be connected strictly with the problem of insurgency which has more or less a reason for Manipur’s underdevelopment in many ways. You cannot just cut and run on emotional grounds.

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  2. Thanks for the critical analysis … if only every sensible Indians could think like yours!

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  3. The simple answer would be that her fight wasn’t one that had popular appeal to the everyday man across India. We humans are weird. We want 24 hr media, we want broadband, we want to know things that are happening everywhere, but we really only react deeply to things that affect our own neighborhood. People reacted to Anna because they feel he was sacrificing for them. Irom Sharmila’s cause maybe just and her fast justified, but because it doesn’t affect the everyday Indian’s own plate of rice and curry, so he doesn’t care. It’s a sad lack of imagination.

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  4. […] Irom Sharmila’s 11 Years v/s Anna Hazare’s 12 Days (mevidur.wordpress.com) […]

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