If they ever made a biopic about her life, it would probably have just two scenes – a never ending hunger strike and Irom Sharmila going in and out from the jail. That is life summed up for you of this lady. If you Google her name, all you get read about is her arrests and releases and her photo with a tube hanging out of her nose, almost like it has become a part of her body.
She is adamant, she is crazy, she is selfless; but above all, she is fighting for something that’s not personal. It’s a fight for her people.
In November 2000, while preparing for a peace rally, Sharmila heard of 10 innocent people, waiting at a bus stop, being shot down by Assam Rifles Personnel. This enraged her and thus began her protest against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which continues till date. The armed forces have been given this special power, to act on their own accord, in disturbed areas. These disturbed areas include the seven sister states of North East and the state of Jammu and Kashmir.
While there has been much debate on whether the AFSPA should be immediately lifted or not, let’s talk about the reasons that have been neglected by people so far:
The Politics of North-East:
The political condition of north-east India has been fragile to say the least. Thanks to the continuous negligence by successive central governments, these states have not had much help from the mainland India. The basic infrastructure in these areas is still laggard, so much so that a railway line, one of the most basic necessities of a modern world, is just making its presence felt now.
When you are neglected for so long, when your own fellow citizens do not identify with you, it is natural for the youngsters to misguided easily. And that is exactly what happened.
The centre woke up late to the problem, and deployed heavy army in the region to curb rising head of terrorism. It was a knee-jerk reaction and we continue to face the problems arising due to it.
Is it wise to lift the military powers?
That is debatable. But, there is a struggle, something of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. Is there an equilibrium here? Yes, albeit not a good one. De-militarization of this area would prove to be another knee-jerk reaction and will end up causing problems.
Security forces, although by force, have managed to control terror in the region. Withdrawing armed forces will create a vacuum in which the state runs a grave risk of being overrun by terrorism. The special powers can be looked into for sure, but not withdrawn completely.
Is Irom Sharmila wrong?
The most important point in this debate. Her cause is noble. Her intentions are good. But what she is doing is constitutionally not allowed. It is an offense under Indian Penal Code, the law of the land, which must be supreme under any and all circumstances.
Further, forcing a Government to repeal an act that is made for the security of citizen is not really right. Yes, whatever happened was not fair or just and armed force personnel have been reckless in the past. While Irom’s demands are fair, jeopardizing the security of seven states, by asking to repeal a demand that has so far (although by force) been successful in controlling terror is not the best thing to do.
When you hear about terror attack in certain areas every other day, force is the only way out. A state can not let its soldiers, who pick others lives over their own death, get ambushed, killed and not retaliate. When 20 soldiers died in Manipur, the champions of human rights preferred to look the other way.
Yes the soldiers are a part of the state, but the state is us. The state is them. The state is everyone.