India returns to normal life after the 13-day-long fast against corruption by self-styled Gandhian Anna Hazare, 74, came to an end Saturday.
But the government's stepmotherly treatment to the decade-long fast by Irom Sharmila Chanu against the violation of human rights in the Northeast is in question to millions: Is India respecting the path of nonviolence laid down by M.K. Gandhi?
Irom Sharmila Chanu, better known as Iron lady of Manipur, has been on hunger strike since Nov. 2, 2000, in protest against the Malom Massacre in which 10 civilians, including a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner, 18-year-old Sinam Chandramani, were allegedly killed by the Assam Rifles.
She has been on her fast unto death demanding the repeal of so called draconian law Armed Forces Special Power Act-1958 (AFSPA-1985)that empowers the army and paramilitary forces to shoot or arrest on mere suspicion in these "disturbed areas" of Northeast and in some parts of Jammu and Kashmir. Since she began her fast unto death, police arrested her under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code "attempt to suicide."
The 39-year-old activist is currently in judicial custody at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. The Indian state has kept her alive on a cocktail of vitamins and nutrients. She is force-fed twice a day through (nasogastric intubation) her nose.
There is antipathy among the people who are affected by the AFSPA-1985 in the Jammu and Kashmir and Northeastern parts of India against the India government's atrocities toward the decade long Sahrmila's hunger.
The high-profile fasts of the activist in Delhi are heard by the government and easily got media attention but the silent decade-long fast by Irom Sharmila is unnoticed by the media and the government lends no ears to her relentless voice against human rights violation and AFAPA-1958.
The Iron Lady is suffering loneliness in her agitation as the Indian government consciously does not show any regard to her suffering and ignores her agitation.
"I can't tolerate the atrocities on my contemporaries, on my people. This is God's will. I will carry on. It's intolerable," Irom Sharmila Chanu recently told IBNLive.
Politically the Northeast is the most neglected and voiceless part of India. The reason the Indian government ignores Sharmila's agitation is very simple: The hunger strike is for the people of Manipur.
Since the inception of her agitation, she is asking only one question to Indian government "why Indian government can't consider the Northeast states like the rest of the country?"
On the other hand denial of Sharmila's demand by the Indian government caused adverse impact on the socio-political and economic degradation in the hilly state.
There is a political cleft in Manipur. In the 60-member Manipur legislative assembly, mainly the opposition members are echoing the issue at the state as well as national government.
Expressing the people's anger against government's total silence towards Sharmila's 10-year-long hunger strike, the president of the Manipur People's Party, Nimaichand Luwang told Manipur Hub: "The denial of Sharmila's 10-year campaign against AFSPA and the sudden acceptance of Hazare's following his hunger strike, which lasted for a few days, sends out a clear message that the people living in the Northeast do not figure in the consciousness of the Centre."
The government of India set up a five member committee to review the mandate of AFSPA, the Jeevan Reddy Commission. The commission came out with the recommendation on June 6, 2005, of repealing the AFSPA act and to incorporate some of its provisions in the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act,1967. But the proposal has been instantly rejected by the then Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
In an attempt to draw the attention of the central government, Sharmila launched her hunger strike at Jantar Mantar after paying tribute to Gandhi on his birthday 2 Oct. 2006. Instead of acknowledging her protest, Delhi police rearrested her for attempting suicide and sent her back to Manipur. And the funny part, Indian government's hasty acceptance to Anna Hazare's demand.
Profile of Irom Sharmila Chanu
Name- Irom Sharmila Chanu (Iron Lady Of Manipur )
DOB- March 14, 1972
Dessignation- Civil rights activist
Agitation style- Non-Violence
Inception- 2 Nov. 2000
Demand- Repeal AFSPA-1958
Centers attention- not sure
Nominated to 2005 Nobel Peace Prize by The North East Network
Recipient of Gwangju Prize for Human Rights
Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize
Sarva Gunah Sampannah '" Award for Peace and Harmony
Adivasi Ratna award
Works on her-
'Burning Bright': Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur by Deepti Priya Mehrotra published by Penguin Books India.
Short documentary 'My Body My Weapon' by Kavita Joshi.
A mono-play titled 'Le Mashale' (Take the torch) by Pune based theatre artist group Ojas S V.
'Save Sharmila Campaign' jointly launched by network of civil societies NAPM, Gandhi Global Family, Asha Parivar, Jagriti Mahila Samiti, Yuva Koshish, Asian Centre of Social Studies and Mission Bhartiyam.