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Sharmila, If you still love your people, continue your struggle

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By: MC Meitei, Coordinator, MIYC

It has been a complete 15 years and 9 months that you have been on indefinite hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 from Manipur challenging the militarization of the civil society under the garb of the Indian Democracy, the functioning of the Indian polity and the enactment of the said Act that renders human casualties randomly with impunity.
Much water has flowed down regarding human casualties and collateral damages on the soil of Manipur since Manipur’s annexation to India in 1949 till today. And, you came out as a symbol of this oppression of the people of Manipur under the Indian dispensation after the Malom Massacre of November, 2000.
The struggle of Sharmila is unique in the world and is the history itself in the embodiment of the struggle itself. You are no less than Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, MK Gandhi or the like. John of Arc of France is also no greater than you. On one side, you are above all these personalities for your relentless struggle against genocide to save humanity. Your struggle is symbolic in this present century not only for the oppressed people of Manipur but for all the burdened people in each and every corner of the Planet Earth who have been struggling against one or the other form of oppression under the tyranny of military rule or autocratic and undemocratic government. Had you been born in the United States, any European country or any NATO Bloc country, you would have already been adorned with the Nobel Peace Prize. Unlucky is that you were born in Manipur-an Indian ruled territory, where receiving the Nobel Peace Prize while in judicial custody shall ever remain a Black Scar on the face of the so-called largest democracy in the world.
Notwithstanding all these facts, everyone was taken by surprise at your sudden declaration to enter into Indian electoral system after curtailing your maiden struggle for the repeal of the notorious AFSPA, 1958 on August 9, 2016. There is no wrong for your entering into politics to serve your people better but the irony is that you have planned to embrace the system which you had rejected for its undemocratic rule and the militarization of the civil society. Even though you win the election, you will not be able to do anything as you will be taking oath under the constitution and shall ever remain as a statue for you won’t be able to fight 59 MLA’s all alone on the floor of the Manipur Legislative Assembly.
We, at the Manipur International Youth Centre (MIYC) still vividly remember how you worked to strengthen the Centre with your position as the Assistant Secretary, Women’s Cell, MIYC till the last minute you drove your bicycle all the way from your home to the Malom Massacre Site to launch your hunger strike. We feel sorry as a hurriedly convened meeting of the Executive Council, MIYC denied you to carry out your hunger strike in the name/as a volunteer of MIYC as we firmly believed that in doing so in the fragile, fragmented and sectarian Manipur Civil Society, you won’t be able to receive the popularity you have won today with the support of the Manipur People in particular and the citizens of the world in general.
Today, by and large, the people of Manipur feel how painful your struggle in that solitude and solitary confinement for such long a time with no able person from Manipur and elsewhere to play your card in the arena of international relations and international diplomacy. We also feel the inner dissent at the penury of your heart like you imagine the stars shall never shine down. We also know you are the one and the only one person who could introduce this little paradise on earth more brightly throughout the world by your struggle against AFSPA, 1958 than any other personality in a different field or struggle.
Your struggle reminds everyone on earth more or less similar to the struggle of Aung San Suu Kyi who spent more than 15 years in detention, most of it under house arrest during which time she was debarred from meeting anyone. By not having any visitor in your social isolation, you could be wrong to outrightly claim (that) you don’t have anybody to support your struggle against AFSPA, 1958. See the various international awards your are honoured with, mass protest rallies in India and across the globe-what they are for-just for the sake of your non-violent struggle against AFSPA, 1958. There is no one in this world who has struggled for such a long period of time in solitary confinement for the cause of humanity. Indeed, you are the longest hunger-striker for humanity in the world. It would also not be wrong to say you are the Icon of Peace in this millennium. And everyone loves you and supports your struggle either mentally or physically.
You may feel you have failed your struggle but it is not so. You have already achieved the fruit of your struggle by unmasking the dark side of the Indian Democracy by exposing its ruthless military regime in Manipur, Kashmir and the North-East India to the world. And, it may be wrong to think you can change the Indian structural system through electoral process for nothing can be done against its strategic interest in this land of Kautilya’s Arthashastra. And, it will also be unwise to suspend your struggle mid-way. By doing so, you will put the people of Manipur in the quagmire of uncertainty and nobody will be able to earn the respect you have given to your people from all over the world. No one on earth would respect Manipur and her people if another Sharmila happens to come up. You must realize your struggle is like an eclipse in the travesty of Indian Democracy and there is an apocalypse of the Indian Democracy happening in Manipur if the struggle of Sharmila meets an untimely death.
Now, the time has come to reconsider your decision to contest election by sidelining the sanctity of your struggle as it would make a mockery of each and everybody’s struggle against AFSPA, 1958 in future. No one can infringe upon an individual’s right to have a family. But doing the right thing in the wrong time would only invite a coward’s remarks. We must learn from the life of Mother Teresa who never married for the cause of humanity. The people of Manipur know the great service for humanity you have been delivering for the last 15 years and 9 months and do not want it to be lost in thin air. Your struggle should be like Gautama Buddha’s struggle for getting SALVATION, leaving behind his family, near and dear ones.
We, at MIYC respect the great love between Desmond Coutinho and you but strongly condemn it if Sharmila decides to wind up this people’s struggle in the chemistry of their romance with unidentified espionages and reactionary catalysts. If Mr. Desmond loves Sharmila sincerely, we appeal him to ask Sharmila not to wind up her struggle in true spirit from outside by contributing his mite to repeal the AFSPA, 1958. Desmond may remind of how Dr. Michael Aris helped Aung San Suu Kyi in her struggle for Democracy even though he was denied entry into Burma since December 1995 even with the intervention of Kofi Annan, the then UN Secretary General, Pope John Paul II and many other international prominent figures. Sharmila must also see the possibility to sacrifice her love for Desmond not to derail her struggle against AFSPA, 1958. Sharmila must also know the love for her people or her motherland is the SUPREME SACRIFICE she can make rather than making a meek resolution for a simple person.
We make this appeal to Sharmila to continue her struggle if she still loves the People of Manipur. We want to see the moment people all over the world crown you the “Queen of Peace” when you acquire the highest position of peace in the world.

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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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