So, BJP leader Nongthombam Biren Singh sworn in as the Manipur’s chief minister in Imphal today. While the whole world is busy discussing BJP’s epic win in UP and how congress trumped Punjab, hung verdict in Manipur, My heart goes out to that one strong lady whom everybody forgot just because she decide to live. This Iron Lady from Manipur ‘Irom Sharmila Chanu‘ not only got defeated but that too from such unbelievable margin that it shatters my heart to the core. She got just 90 votes for spending a decade and half of her life on hunger strike. Even less than NOTA.
When Sharmila decided to contest against three-time Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh we knew that this challenge wasn’t going to be an easy one but What shocked us more was the fact that not even 100 people from her own state stood up for her. Apparently, Even 16 years of excruciating hunger strike is not enough to win people’s love in an already troubled state where there is a constant fear of murder by security forces, corruption and an environment of non normalcy.
It was Sharmila Chanu only who made me and many others familiar with the plight of people of Manipur. If it had not been for Sharmila’s fast, national and international media and various human rights groups wouldn’t have supported the demand for basic rights for people of Manipur. I still remember that weebly but strong face with the tube hanging down her nose for years. How hard it would be for her to live in such a condition for years? But she did, Not for herself but to stand against injustice to her own people.
As Irom decided to break the fast, her people abandoned her right there and then. Before this she was Manipur’s proud and courage but not anymore. As soon as Sharmila announced to break her fast she came under sheer criticism. At that time, she had also expressed her desire to get married to her fiancee Desmond Coutinho, people even judged her for that. I mean really? Isn’t she supposed to live her life? After years of hard struggle she finally found someone to share her struggle with and people are not happy with even that?
I once read somewhere that Martyrs become great because they have had given up their life otherwise people would turn against them too and that they would be no less than ordinary people. If Bhagat Singh, Mahatma Gandhi wouldn’t have sacrificed their lives, They wouldn’t have been worshipped the way they are being now. This incident with Sharmila Chanu makes me wonder, Was that True? During the elections preparations Irom was found telling her handful of supporters that “During my hunger strike, people supported me but actually they were just guarding me, controlling me, escorting me. They wanted to ensure my martyrdom.”
Until Sharmila was on the way to give up her life, She was their idol. The day she decided to break her fast, her own family, followers disowned her. Residents of her own colony said they didn’t want her to live there since it would call media attention and unnecessary trouble. Even her brother spoke against her.
It makes me wonder that it this the same Manipur where women attracted huge attention from international media after a naked protest over the alleged rape and killing of a woman Assam Rifles men?
Is this the fate of every human right activist? After all, these are the people who work for others, stand for others. What for? That once they take the chance for going the other way around and their followers turn into their Haters. As in case of Sharmila her followers supported her only when it was convenient to them and then just forget her altogether.
Although Sharmila lost but for people like us, whose first encounter with Manipur was because of her, She will always be the true leader and worker of humanity. This defeat couldn’t define her greatness and her panache for humanity. Even if your people didn’t, we stand by you Sharmila and always will.