Irom Sharmila has called off her hunger protest against AFSPA. She went through pain, misery and deprivation for 16 long years. There were hundreds of people who have been killed in the encounters with army. What was Sharmila’s demand? It was to repeal the AFSPA act or to modify some of its provisions.
Let us understand what AFSPA is all about. Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enacted by the Indian Parliament in 1958 to deal with the insurgency and terrorist activities. It empowers the governors of the state/Union territories to declare the state as ‘disturbed’. It is invoked by the state government in case of the failure of the local administration and police to deal with the local issues. The act was promulgated in the Seven Sisters of North East, Punjab , Jammu and Kashmir. In Punjab and Chandigarh it was withdrawn in 1997 roughly after 14 years it was enacted. The Tripura govt. has withdrawn the act in 2015 in terms of the declining terrorist activities. Some of the provisions of the act provided sweeping powers to the army personnel to arrest anyone suspected of a cognizable offence without a search warrant. The act also provided legal immunity for their actions. This in turn led to a number of innocent victims losing their lives. Incidentally the precursor of AFSPA was the AFSP ordinance promulgated by the British on 15/8/42 ( isn’t the date ironical?) to suppress the Quit India Movement.
How was she treated after her release– cold reception! Forget about her colleagues, even her family members refused to welcome her back. Her brother Singhajit left the court in a huff and did not wait even for her release. Today she has nowhere to go. She has been ostracized by the society. For time being, the Indian Red Cross has allowed her to stay in the former’s premises. Forget petty criminals, even major offenders, murderers who been absolved for their crimes for lack of evidence or those who have completed their sentence are welcome home. Here is a person who has sacrificed 16 years of her life for a cause. What crime has she committed?.
If Punjab and Tripura were able to repeal the act, it shows the Manipur govt in poor light for not improving the law and order situation in the last 16 years. Forget the legal aspect, not a single leader worth his salt had the courage to appreciate her courage and tenacity. What would have happened if PM Modi were to invite her over lunch and assured that something could have been done? If Mahatma Gandhi were to go on a fast, the people across caste and creed would have supported Gandhi. One assumption Sharmila might have done is to equate the current leaders in the league of Mahatma Gandhi and Mandela. But alas! She was horribly wrong.
Forget the leaders, even the society has not treated her in a normal way! More than anything, the pain of her own community disowning her must have been a shocking revelation on the human nature.
The human mind is not objective and rational. It is primarily irrational and consists of three filters which are Deletion, Distortion and Generalization.
- Deletion: Do you remember the adage, When I do something wrong, nobody forgets, when I do something right, nobody remembers. We are conveniently forgetting that this lady has sacrificed precious 16 years of her adult life.
- Distortion: Sharmila wants to get married to her boyfriend Desmond Cutinho and live a normal life. She has all the right to do so. Whereas her colleagues are aver that she has let down the Manipuri community and has abandoned the AFSPA cause.
- Generalization: Goddesses like Durga, Kali are worshipped and revered. Women are kept on a pedestal with quotation like wife for a while but mother for a life time. Sacrifice is paramount. The reality is we care a damn about female foeticide, dowry deaths, or increasing atrocities on women. The women’s reservation bill is still pending even after a decade. The only virtue for women in general and Sharmila in particular is sacrifice. The society wants her to continue her fast ad infinitum whether or not it pays results
Let us be humane, respect her for her courage and sacrifices, and welcome her back to the ‘sane’ world and wish her a happy married life!
Rajan Parulekar, email@example.com , 98450 14098