Home » Manipur in the Backdrop of AFSPA and Irom Sharmila-2

Manipur in the Backdrop of AFSPA and Irom Sharmila-2

by Rinku Khumukcham
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This write up was presented by Yumnam Rupachandra, Editor-in-Chief ,Impact News (Manipur), Secretary General, Editors’ Guild Manipur in the late Harendra Nath Barua Memorial Lecture, in Guwahati August 31, 2016

Contd. from previous issue

Rather a change has come over her. She had found someone she could love and willing to share her life and passion. She has discovered a new means to achieve her goal. Whether it will work is another issue. It is not clear after 16 years of denying herself the taste of good home cook meal and isolation, if she has found true enlightenment or she succumb to the machination of the system.
15th year into her fast, the MHA changed the rule of engagement. It was not easy to meet Sharmila in her high security room in JNIMS hospital, formerly JN Hospital. But depending on the mood of the state government access were granted to media and selected individuals whom the state considered harmless. But July 2015, MHA changed the rule and anyone who wants to meet Sharmila must deposit an amount of Rs. 1 lakh. Certain categories were said to be exempted. Sharmila protested the conditions imposed for meeting her calling it an attempt by the state to restrict her freedom of expression.
She also started receiving huge cash awards from organisations that were little heard of promoting such awards. What was to be Rs.5 lakh nominal award turned into 51 lakhs. It also became apparent Sharmila was not that isolated and she had access to lap tops and internet and she was in communications. Political parties and Politicians have been meeting her and offering candidacy in place of AFSPA repeal. While she accepted the awards through her Narratives of routine outings to courts, when the local media took chances to speak to her were changing. The symptoms of changes that led to the 9 August declaration was noticed and rift between her and her die hard supporters were being noticed. It was clear Sharmila had changed. The narrative around Sharmila was no longer about AFSPA but about what she will do next, when she will quit or who was her new found friend, will he be there in her next court appearance etc.?. It was too stark to be a natural course of a struggle devoid of machination and conspiracy theory of whether Sharmila has been coerced with wealth and emotion blackmail did gain ground.
To be fair to Sharmila, her 16 years of fast has not gone wasted. She has done more for anti-AFSPA movement than any individuals. She must be given credit for bringing AFSPA into focus of International and national media. She must also be given credit for arousing the consciousness of a section of Indian intellectuals and activist to a issue far removed from their environment. A nation wide 2 month long campaign was launched by “Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign”  in support of her struggle. Symposium on her struggle was held at the Harvard University, John F Kennedy School of Government on “ 11 years hunger strike: Irony in the worlds largest democracy.” She took the anti AFSPA movement to International arena. Back home she inspired women group, many in their seventies and eighties to give her company outside her hospital jail, to start a rally hunger strike. The small tin roof shack outside the gate of JNIMS hospital which served as office of the “Sharmila Kanba Lup” or Save Sharmila Organisation was the place where Sharmila landed whenever the court released her only to rearrested as she continued her fast. Today the organisation has been disbanded. Sharmila has been saved but not in the manner they wanted. Like Sharmila they wanted the Government of India to revoke the act so that Sharmila can once again eat and be saved.
As said before, this Act was enacted to tackle secessionism and insurgency. But 5 decades down the line this act has in fact help created more groups and Assam, Nagaland and Manipur and to some extent Tripura now has multiple groups with Manipur leading from the front with over two dozen groups. The question that is hanging huge but never considered in policy makers corridor is –Is AFSPA fighting insurgency or stoking it?  and Is the army answer to the insurgencies?
Thought, with several pacts with many splinter groups and with what the centre considers as “mother of all insurgencies”-the NSCN(IM) and Pro-talk group of ULFA in place, there seems to be sense of normalcy returning to the region. But we know this is not true and incident like Paroulen, in Chandel district of Manipur and recent Kokrajhar attack is a reminder that insurgency is not a closed chapter. With states police woefully under powered, the army is still going to be required by the states. And with army having its say AFSPA is not going to go away any sooner. (To be contd………)

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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