For a long time I have admired Irom Sharmila’s resoluteness and tenacity in pursuing her protest against the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The “Iron Lady of Manipur” as she is commonly known, has been on a 16 year hunger strike which she has now decided to end.
Irom Sharmila has been a long time political and civil rights activist who has done a stellar job in bringing attention to the draconian law that has resulted in several human rights violations and deaths in the North Eastern States, including her own, Manipur.
The AFSPA was passed by the Indian government in 1958 and applies to just the seven North Eastern States of India. It grants security forces the power to search properties without a warrant, and to arrest people, and to use deadly force if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is acting against the state. Irom Sharmila commenced her hunger strike post the “Malom Massacre” where 10 civilians were shot and killed whilst waiting at a bus stop.
So it was with great shock that I read about activists protesting her decision to end her hunger strike, join the political arena to continue her fight for justice and her decision to marry a non Manipuri.
I fully support Irom Sharmila’s decision to end her hunger strike as I do believe she has done more than her share to bring attention to the issue. It is no wonder that Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of Conscience. If at this point, she believes that a new form of protest is needed and she would be better off to fight it from within the political process then it is truly her choice.
Everyone must evaluate for themselves what is the course of action they are taking and what is working or not. We should respect her decision. If we disagree we can politely state our views but in the end it is up to Irom Sharmila to make the final decision for herself.
As for her marrying a person outside of her community, it is nobody’s business to interfere. She has every right to do as she pleases and owes no one anything. I wish her all the best in her journey.
Feature Image Credit: Live Mint/Reuters
( Views are personal)