Imagine not eating for 16 years. Sounds like an impossible crazy idea. But this is what one woman did in protest against state sponsored violence. The “Iron Lady” of Manipur started her fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in November 2000, when the Assam rifles gunned down 10 civilians at a bustand in Malom, Imphal. Decades after independence, we still have the armed forces controlling various parts of the country. So much for the world’s largest democracy and power to the people.
Yesterday, after 16 years of non-violent protest to repeal the AFSPA, Irom Sharmila ended her fast. The Iron Lady symbolically had a taste of honey. The repealing of the act will be a sweeter victory.
Some years ago I watched theatre artist Ojas SV’s beautiful performance of Irom Sharmila’s story. A prisoner. Of Conscience. A young girl launching a non-violent protest. In this day and age of patriotic fervour and nationalistic jingoism, a quiet, almost odd thing to do. And now, her move to stand for elections and continue to protest against violence is a tribute to her courage. To fight peacefully. As oxymoronic as fasting for 16 years?
Irom Sharmila, carry on the good fight!