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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My Views on Jammu & Kashmir


I know this is going to be my most controversial blog. But when the valley is burning and there are more than 100 deaths, how can I keep quiet ? Let us admit that there are so many people in India, who are biased against muslims. I personally don’t like the generalization : every muslim is not a terrorist but every terrorist is muslim. This notion is wrong. Such kind of sweeping remarks humiliate the community. It instills a kind of inferiority complex and a sense of insecurity in the psyche of the general Muslim. In my opinion, people are more concerned about their bread and butter, if they can afford that, rather than supporting a jehadi outfit. They are also a helpless spectator like us when an organization like Al-Qaeda strikes somewhere. What we expect from the muslim community in such a scenario? Do we really expect that an ordinary muslim should take a gun and start fighting a jehadi or a terrorist ? Look at the photo below. These poor fellows could also be an easy target.

Let me take you to the days of Hitler. He was a democratically elected and legitimate ruler of Germany. But later on he became an autocrat and in the worst holocaust , murdered millions. German nation endured it with helpless silence. But they didn’t support Hitler. In the same way, all the muslims are not the supporters of Al-Qaeda, but they too are helpless spectators. They are too feeble to stand and fight Al-Qaeda. Moreover if the might of the world is unable to contain Al-Qaeda, then how can we expect that muslim masses should stand and oppose them ?

Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in Munich, G...

Image via Wikipedia Hitler & Mussolini in Germany 1940

JAMMU & KASHMIR : Geographical Position : So if we start with the fact that all muslims are not supporters of the jehadi group, then we can view Jammu & Kashmir crisis in right perspective. To say that whole of the province is in turmoil ,is wrong. Geography of the province is unique. Jammu is Hindu majority part of the province and they are not spearheading an agitation for cessation. They are happy to be Indian. Laddakh part of the province is Buddhist majority and they also don’t have anti-India feelings. They are contented as Indians. Northern Areas of the province known as Gilgit, Hunza ( Baltit ) and Skardu are under Pakistan’s control. And Aksai Chin part of Laddakh is under Chinese control. So you have to divide the state of Jammu & Kashmir into 4 different parts : Jammu, Laddakh , the Kashmir Valley and the Northern Areas { Gilgit, Hunza ( Baltit ) & Skardu }.

KASHMIRIAT : People of earlier generation used to take pride in Kashmiriat. according to them, the state of Jammu & kashmir is a testimony or a fine example of secularism. Let us agree that this culture of Kashmiriat is dead. Jammu has no love for the Valley and the feeling in the Valley is reciprocated. During the recent floods of Leh, people from every corner of the country rushed to help, but there was no voice of concern from the leaders of the Valley. And I am not pointing fingers only at separatists. People like Mehbooba Mufti, her father, who was once the Home Minister of India, were not concerned at all. So why we are trying to keep a facade of so-called Kashmiriat alive. Kashmiriat died with the death of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah.

SOLUTION : According to me , state of Jammu & Kashmir should be trifurcated .

1 – Hindu majority Jammu should be made a separate and 29th province of India.

2 – Buddhist majority Laddakh should be made the 7th Union Territory of India.

3 – Northern Areas, as and when taken back from Pakistan, should be christened ” Seemant Pradesh “ and should be made the 8th Union Territory of The Nation. No need of saying that Aksai Chin , when liberated, will be with Laddakh.

4 – Now comes the question of The Valley a. k. a. kashmir. First of all we have to make a conducive and congenial atmosphere for the return of the Kashmiri Pandits to their homeland. Every leader of Kashmir have said that Kashmiri Pandits are the part and parcel of our culture. So they should be settled in The Valley and ” Panun kashmir “ should be made as their homeland. It could be like the National Capital Region of Delhi. Almost every party have rejected ” Panun Kashmir “. They say that it would not be a viable entity. But if ” Dadra & Nagar Haveli ” or a tiny ” Diu ” could be a Union Territory then why not ” Panun Kashmir ” ?

Now the question comes about the rest of Kashmir .

1 – We must acknowledge that there are real and genuine grievances of the people. And the central government should address it on the priority basis. It should be addressed as Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee famously said , ” everything will be done insaniyat ke dayere men.”

2 – Loss of life is not acceptable under any circumstances. Trigger happy cops should be restrained and duly punished , if found guilty.

3 – AFSPA ( Armed Forces Special Powers Act ) can also be withdrawn as a test case. It could again be used if need arises or situation gets out of control.

4  – I also endorse of the steps taken by All Party Delegation. There is nothing wrong in going to the house of Syed Ali Shah Geelani or meeting Mirwaiz  Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. There should never be a protocol coming in the way of meeting our own people.

5 – Kashmir has article 370 in the Indian Constitution to protect her interest. Kashmir has a separate constitution and a separate flag also. [ Only Indian State to have it ] So if the people want some more power, it could be talked. There is no harm in reaching to the people.

6 – If people of the Valley is not satisfied with Omar Abdullah, he should resign. Congress, in order to have a government in the province, should not support him.

7 – National media, specially Barkha Dutt is widely criticized for her reporting, but she has a point. We should understand that.

6 – Terrorism is a worldwide phenomenon. People of kashmir should not be held responsible for this scourge.

The terrorist incidents in the whole year of 2008

Image via Wikipedia Terrorist Attacks in 2008

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