She is just an ordinary young woman from Manipuri, one of the 07 North – East provinces, who resolutely continues her “indefinite fast” into the 09th year against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that is enforced in Manipuri which provides the Indian security forces with enormous powers to act with impunity.
She began her fast in November 2000 when the Indian security forces went on a free firing spell in a small town called Malom close to Imphal, killing 10 innocent people, who were waiting for a bus. One among them was a little child and another was an aged male.
Manipuri is a province that has armed militancy fighting the Indian army to liberate it from the Indian State. The Indian army and para military forces have been deployed in Manipuri to combat this armed militancy with plenty of freedom to go on rampage. There is thus heaps of ‘rights’ violations in Manipuri and many killings that are not accounted for. Some human rights organisations in Manipuri have documented hundreds of such killings.
Her, Irom Sharmila’s life begins in this troubled land as a Meitei Manipuri, whose father was an attendant in the Veterinary department and is the last in a family of 09 children. After finishing her formal schooling, Irom Sharmila started working as a freelance with a NGO, in a country that has no development and few jobs in the State sector that is mostly available and sold for bribes. She then tried her hand in journalism and enjoyed writing poetry too. She later went along with much passion supporting human rights activities.
Successive Indian governments are accused of funding a very corrupt Manipuri bureaucracy and a fat political culture through “infrastructure development” projects, where in reality only 10% is said to have been utilized. Where the funds are channeled to the villages, the militants are also said to be embezzling them at will.
All of it is not discussed in the mainstream Indian media as the mainland Indians are not interested in the 07 North-East provinces that are only linked to them with a 22 km narrow stretch of land called the “chicken neck”. If at all they get interested in them, then it is to know how the Indian rifles are putting down the troublesome “insurgency”, given all the power that could be given.
It is therefore obvious that most Indians are not aware of Irom Sharmila’s indefinite fast to have the AFSPA withdrawn from Manipuri. She was arrested by the Indian security forces after she went on her fast in November, 2000 and force fed her through a nasal tube. Ever since then she is in an out of detention, each time force fed by the security forces.
Her story is written into a very comprehensive book by an academic and a feminist social writer from Delhi, with a sensitive ground touch. The writer it is said, has done much research in Manipuri socio-political developments to provide Irom Sharmila’s indefinite fast and her present detention in the prisons in Imphala, a rich historical background to firmly perch on.