• There are three types of people in the world, those who don't know what's happening, those who wonder what's happening and those on the streets that make things happen.

Twelve Years of Fasting….Story of a Paradise Lost.

Posted by Raunak Mahajan on November 5, 2012

Irom Sharmila personifies greatness. This social activist has been on a fast for the last 12 years, demanding withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from her state of Manipur. She is being fed through nasogastric intubation to keep her alive.

When the nation of India was formed, it was a collection of extremely diverse provinces and states. Attached to India were the seven states of North East that could not be more different from the rest of India; Culturally, Religiously and Ethnically. Naturally the locals resented and out of this opposition arose several militant movements that fought the state demanding freedom from the Union of India. While most of these movements were quelled, either by bribing the rebels into submission or pumping alcohol and drugs into the veins of their residents, one state remains “disturbed” in the records of the Indian Government. This state is the beautiful land of Manipur.

North East India is “Heaven on Earth”. And Manipur is the capital of that Paradise. The most pristine landscapes, the most breathtaking views, a place hand made by Gods as their resting place. But Gods seem to have abandoned the state since the 1950s. Warring factions, militant rebels, vendetta driven Army have colored the land red. Thousands of lives have been lost, several atrocities committed. Yet, more than 60 years later, there is no peace. Or maybe, that is what groups with vested interests would like us to think. Hence, Manipur is still labeled “disturbed” by the government and this categorization is used to justify the implementation of the dark law that is AFSPA.

The colonial law used by the British in 1942 was adopted by the Indian Union and further tweaked to make it even more draconian. The law gives the Army and supporting operations groups unlimited powers. They can apprehend anyone without a warrant, not even an excuse. It gives Army officers legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. Needless to say, the law has been misused more than a few times.

While it sounds despicable, the law is required. However, it was always intended to be used for a very short time, for three to six months which would let the Armed Forces clean up the disturbed areas. But when the law is applied for a period beyond that, it takes on an evil character. In Manipur, the law has been in force for decades!

So this post is dedicated to the people of North East, who are my fellow Indians and I feel sad that they are being treated as unequal Indians by our government. Worse, no one seems to be giving two hoots about what is going on in land that we Indians should be grateful for possessing. Its a blot on our democracy.

I salute Irom Sharmila. She is the modern day Gandhi! I do wish she ends her fast and uses her energy to bring together like minded people and create a strong democratic forum to fight the system.Her fast is losing its bite. Because, like one analyst said, people have just gotten used to her fast.

But who cares. India’s GDP is growing at 8%. Some Indians are counting their riches while the rest are being bribed by alcohol, drugs and bullets.

6 Responses to “Twelve Years of Fasting….Story of a Paradise Lost.”

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  3. Ugh, that sounds so much like the US now. Sometimes, our nations should consider giving up some of their bigness, acknowledging that some differences cannot be met by one resource/government, and allow regions to separate so they can be peaceful neighbors rather than unpeaceful family members. Anyway, that’s what I’m starting to think these days. The happiest and most successful countries seem to be the smaller ones. Their populations are more homogonous, which allows them to have a national identity while still respecting other cultures who are different. Because they are smaller, policies are more efficient and better able to help rather than hinder. Here in the US, policies which started out as good intentions often end up so big and diluted that they cause more harm than good — but if one makes this observation, even if the next phrase in the sentence is, “How can we make this better?” one is lambasted and metaphorically tarred and feathered. There is no dialogue, and people end up hating each other even more.

    Sometimes, to love someone, you have to let them go. Maybe India needs to let this lovely province go…

    • Raunak said

      I couldn’t agree more. I had written a post called Disunited States of India in which I had presented the argument for dividing India into 29 countries. Sometimes corporate demergers yield great results. Maybe national demergers can give the same positive results too.

  4. People were telling her to give up from the day she started. I doubt you’ve actually been to Manipur. The description sounds like it comes out of a travel agents. It may have been beautiful in the 19th century. But now it’s one of the ugliest violent and frightening places to visit in this part of the world. I much prefer Laos which has suffered more but has come back far stronger. If India wants to let this province go and it ain’t lovely given that Mother India has abused it for the the past 60 years at least try and make the State viable before you cut and run. There is no economy there. The culture is one of violence and thuggery. Why would anyone work for a living for a pittance when all the real money comes via corruption and gangsterism. I don’t overestimate recent events. Low caste women are often raped and left for dead and most Indians don’t batt an eyelid. This time the Justice Veerma Commission has again asked for both an amendment of the AFSPA which as you say derives from the British Empire’s AFSOA 1942 and a review of how a temporary emergency legislation has been allowed to continue in Manipur since 1958 continuously without the Supreme Court accepting that it has become permanent through the back door. Apparently Justice Veerma while on the Supreme Court had ruled that AFSPA was not unconstitutional but that it was a temporary law and if used continuously cannot stand. I don’t think many Indians would run with your idea. They end being very tribalist on what they call the integrity of India’s borders. They like the idea of India. They have very little respect for many Indians. Also the power of the military has to be acknowledged more openly. They run most of the neighbouring countries overtly. Parliament would not dare take on the Military openly. And they have already demanded no change to AFSPA. I presume no one actually asks an Officer why he needs to have immunity from prosecution in the Delhi example for forcing a rusty iron bar into the anus of a female citizen he is supposed to protect rupturing her intestines and eventually causing her death but the Indian Military claim the AFSPA is their Bible their Holy Writ and they will not deploy if Parliament takes away this immunity. I don’t believe the majority of Manipuris particularly want independence. It’s a very divided land anyway. At least Delhi could offer some refereeing. If prosperity comes the people won’t care so much for the joys of going solo. But prosperity has come only to the big cities of India. Parliament will probably sideline the Veerma Commission as it did the Jeevan Reddy which Dr Singh commissioned asking to make the AFSPA more humane. As it sidelined the Second Administrative Reforms Committee recommendations to repeal or reform AFSPA which was chaired by the then Law Minister Sri Moilly. Technically change is blocked by the Defence Minister A K Antony in parliament. But since the Defence Minister is the permanent rep of the Army in cabinet. AFSPA won’t go until or unless a compromise is offered the Military. I would have thought something that offers them genuine protection such as body armour, better weaponry satellite IT support helicopters and amphibious craft for Loktak Lake patrols would give the Military better protection than a law that prevents the police from investigating crimes against the citizens they were supposed to protect. But most Indians disagree or don’t care. But I do believe AFSPA will be repealed within the next few years. And you may not rate Sharmila’s protest. But without her there was no real protest. Too many people have made money out of the chaos. If you really looked at where the money was going you’d surprised who has benefited these past 12 years. I’ll give you a clue, not Sharmila

    • Raunak said

      Desmond, thank you so much for sharing your views. I completely agree with you. we do not need draconian laws to strengthen our army. If strengthening the army is what is required, then as you suggest better weapons are the answer, not AFSPA!
      We need to work on inclusion and it is shameful that we are still not a truly united country. Equitable economic development is the answer and it is time that our leaders give us that.

      Thanks again for your great insights.

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