Recording of evidence in case against Irom Sharmila pushed to 30 Aug #AFSPA #Vaw


May 22, 2013New Delhi: A Delhi court on Friday fixed 30 August for recording of prosecution evidence in a case against rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu for allegedly attempting suicide during her fast-unto-death in New Delhi in 2006.

The Manipuri activist has been on a fast for over 12 years demanding repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in her home state.

Irom Sharmila. ReutersIrom Sharmila. Reuters

Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain, who had earlier scheduled the matter for Wednesday for recording testimony of prosecution evidence, fixed the matter for 30 August after 40-year-old Sharmila could not appear in the court.

The court allowed the plea of Sharmila’s counsel who sought her exemption from personal appearance for today.

Earlier on March 4, the court had put the rights activist on trial after she had refused to plead guilty for the offence of attempting to commit suicide (Section 309 of IPC).

If convicted, Sharmila, who is out on bail in this case, faces a maximum jail term of one year.

Popularly known as the “Iron Lady”, Sharmila had earlier said her’s was a non-violent protest. She has been on fast since 2000.

She had rejected the charge that she had attempted suicide in 2006 and had told the court, “I do not want to commit suicide. Mine is only a non-violent protest. It is my demand to live as a human being. I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace.”

While framing charges, the court had said, “It is alleged against you (Sharmila)…that you on October 4, 2006 at about 8 PM sat at Jantar Mantar on fast unto death uptil 11.30 pm on 6 October, 2006 and refused to get your medical check up and thereby, committed an act with an intention or knowledge that under such circumstances that death may be caused and thereby, committed an offence under Sec 309 of IPC.”

PTI

 

Don’t You Have A Sharmila Within You?


writetoirom

 

By Ravi Nitesh

03 May, 2013
Countercurrents.org

When you talk about her, you automatically relate yourself with her, with her pain and struggle, with all the sufferings of her and this association happens without force, it is because somewhere your soul is same as her or as any other human being. This association with someone’s pain and sufferings is based on the very nature of humanity because humanity is a virtue of being human and regardless of specific identity.

The continuous demand of Irom Sharmila through a non violent protest under which she adopted path of hunger protest and observing it since last 12 years, is itself a struggle that needs lot of power and self belief and self motivation. It is all towards your fight as an individual for the objective of welfare of a large group who are associated with you with the relation of humanity. When you write about her, when you hear about her and when you talk about her, its all about your contribution also in a larger struggle for the sake of justice. We all know about the cause for which she is on hunger protest. It is for the better administration, a rule of justice, a peaceful environment. The rule against which she is on protest is a draconian law in real terms. There were hundreds of examples where it can be proved that this rule named ‘armed forces special powers act’ violated the rights and attacked on humanity. She through her protest dedicated herself towards sacrifice as a protest. Her sacrifice is actually not about suicide (as claimed by rule of law of India), instead it is towards enriching the life of self and others with building a safe environment of living , of living with dignity as in true sense life without dignity and humanity is actually no life. We all must have to live our life for such causes in our own areas.

If you will see closely, you will understand that you too have same spirit the Sharmila has. When you will think, you will find that there is an automatic respect in your soul for her. You must had experience of your own struggle that you ever fought for a right cause at your home, school or work place and this fight of your life , though , you might suffered during your fight but it is sure that you had realized the need for this fight and the satisfaction after following your inner voice. If you would left the option to fight then you might feel guilty of not doing anything. It happens with everyone, our hearts sometime tell us to help someone, to fight something, to shout on , to raise our voice, to make our people and government more effective, and on the next instant, we again back to our life. Sharmila had the same feelings and emotions that you have, she is as like you as you are for yourself, she is a sister, daughter and fellow citizen. The only difference between you and Sharmila is that she fought and struggled for the cause for a long time and she did not come back to normal life. She became so motivated that she decided to live with dignity. Her soul became so pure for a specific purpose that she get diverted from all worldly affairs. It is the time for all of us, to identify a Sharmila within us and to think and to associate with the great cause of her. It is a fight that she is not fighting for herself instead for all of us who believe in justice.

It is a time to identifying our potential in our hearts and souls that make ourselves a follower of truth. It is a time to think about future generations and to contribute in building an atmosphere of fearless minds. Its not only fight of Manipur or other NE states or J&K, its not only fight of those who lost their persons in resulted this rule, instead it is a demand by the persons who believe in humanity and rights and justice for all. We all are living Sharmila in our heart because we are determined to support the Repeal AFSPA cause and moreover to the all and any cause that can enrich humanity and that can remove ill effects of present rules imposed by society or government at any place.

Ravi Nitesh is a Petroleum Engineer, Founder- Mission Bhartiyam, Core Member- Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign follow on twitter:www.twitter.com/ravinitesh Blog: www.ravinitesh.blogspot.com

 

Irom Sharmila Re-Arrested, Continues Her Fast Unto Death Demanding Repeal Of #AFSPA #Vaw


 

Irom Sharmila was released on Tuesday by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Imphal East after completing one year imprisonment. She refused to give up her fast and was re-arrested by the Porompat police
Shazia Nigar

March 14, 2013

‘I will not adopt a re-conciliatory position. Nothing will change my stand and I will continue to fast until my demand is fulfilled,’ said Irom Sharmila. Photo: Ankit Agarwal

Iron LadyIrom Sharmila Chanu has been arrested once again on charges of attempted suicide. She has been on fast unto death for twelve years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. The maximum punishment the charge is imprisonment up to one year.

Babloo Loitongbam, Human Right activist and an associate of Irom Sharmila said, “She was picked up from the site of protest at the Save Sharmila office in Imphal.”

Sharmila had been released on Tuesday by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Imphal East after completing one year imprisonment. She refused to give up her fast and was re-arrested by the Porompat police. Before being produced to court, Sharmila was remanded to judicial custody until 26 March. She is currently in the security ward at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.

Sharmila’s brother, Irom Singhajit said that a medical team showed up at the site of protest demanding a medical check-up that she denied. Police picked her up later at six in the evening. Singhajit said, “I meet her every fifteen days when she is produced in court. The family requires a special permission to see her. It takes one month for a permission to be granted.”

Commenting on her fast unto death in a recent interview with TEHELKA, Sharmila said, “Although it’s been over 12 years, I will not adopt a re-conciliatory position. Nothing will change my stand and I will continue to fast until my demand is fulfilled. Nothing will shake my resistance.”

Irom Sharmila has been fasting since November 2000 when ten civilians were killed in an alleged encounter by the Assam Rifles near Imphal airport. AFSPA was imposed in Manipur in 1980.

 

#IromSharmila appears before court, refuses to plead guilty #AFPSA #Suicide #Vaw


 

Dailybhaskar.com | Mar 04, 2013

 

New DelhiManipur‘s ‘iron lady’, Irom Sharmila, appeared in city’s Patiala Court on Monday in an attempt to suicide case. The Patiala House court framed charges against the social activist for attempting to commit suicide in 2006 when she sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar in the national capital. She has been on a fast-unto-death stir against the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Manipur since past 12 years.
Urging the court to treat her case as special her lawyer said that since she has already been in custody for six years, she should be let off because under Section 309 the period of imprisonment is only one year. She was charged under Section 309 six years ago, when she brought her agitation against AFSPA in Manipur to Delhi. She had then continued her fast and refused to take medical intervention. Her condition deteriorated that forced Delhi Police to file attempt to suicide charges against her and force-fed at the AIIMS , before she was allowed to go back to Imphal.
Irom Sharmila launched her fast-unto-death in 2000 after 10 civilians were killed by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom near Imphal airport.

 

 

In India’s remote northeast, civilians challenge rape, killing by security forces #Vaw #AFSPA


Simon Denyer/The Washington Post – Irom Sharmila arrives for a fortnightly court appearance, flanked by two police officers, in the northeastern Indian city of Imphal on Feb. 7, 2013. Sharmila began a hunger strike in 2000 to protest against a controversial law that grants the Indian army virtual impunity from prosecution.

By Published: February 19

IMPHAL, India

Manipur, with a population of little more than 2 million, is tiny by Indian standards, and the country’s economic development of the past two decades has largely passed it by. Most of its residents are Hindus but are of Tibet-Burman origin and are thought to look more Burmese than Indian; they feel their countrymen look down on them. An armed separatist rebellion began here in the 1960s and has led to about 20,000 deaths.

For 12 years, a Manipuri woman, Irom Sharmila, has been on a hunger strike against the armed forces act. Having been convicted in court of intent to take her own life, she is under police guard in a hospital and force-fed through her nose.

Last week, Sharmila, 40, emerged from the hospital for a biweekly appearance in court, and, in an interview outside the courtroom, while being flanked by two female police officers, Sharmila said she was not optimistic that the government would relent any time soon.

The formation of committees is a tactic to deflect public anger, she said in halting English, and the people of Manipur are not given the respect accorded to other Indians.

“They treat us like stepchildren,” she said before police whisked her away.

Across town, 37-year-old Neena Ningombam has cared for her two children alone since her husband was taken away by police in November 2008. A few hours later his body, with a hand grenade planted next to it, was shown on television, supposedly that of a rebel killed after attacking the police.

In one sense, Ningombam is lucky. Witnesses saw her husband being arrested, and they have not been intimidated into silence. A local magistrate who investigated the case found that her husband had never been involved in a militant group and that he was killed in what is known here as a “fake encounter.”

Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert, a local rights group that has documented the alleged rapes and extrajudicial executions, said members of the security forces who kill militants are rewarded with cash, medals and promotions.

“An incentive structure has created vested interests in the army and police just to kill people on the flimsiest charges,” he said, “while the judicial process has completely failed.”

With Loitongbam’s help, the widows of Manipur are fighting back. Responding to a petitionthey have filed, the Supreme Court appointed a respected three-
person team last month to look into the alleged extrajudicial executions. Yet another committee of inquiry, it could nevertheless put more pressure on the government to roll back what residents describe as a cloak of impunity shrouding events in Manipur.

Like the other widows of Manipur, Ningombam continues her legal battle to clear her husband’s name.

In an opinion piece last week, Hazarika, the member of the 2005 commission and an expert on northeastern India, called the law an “abomination.”

“How many more deaths, how many more naked protests, how many more hunger strikes, how many more committees, how many more editorials and articles and broadcasts before AFSPA goes?” he asked.

 

Irom sharmila Scholarship #mustshare #AFSPA #vAW


iromflower

 

The Irom Sharmila Scholarship, set up in honour of Irom Sharmila’s fight for
democracy and constitutional values, is open to any graduate student
studying in any university/college in Delhi in any subject who comes from an
area with internal armed conflict. Preference will be given to those who
come from AFSPA affected areas, have suffered under AFSPA or similar laws or
can demonstrate financial need. The scholarship is a lump sum of Rs. 50,000,
awarded once a year. The scholarship jury will comprise of faculty from
different universities in Delhi. Interested candidates may send a covering
letter explaining why they should be considered, and a copy of their cv to:
iromsharmilascholarship@gmail.com. Applications must reach by March 14,
2013, which is Irom Sharmila’s birthday.

This my people -Irom’s Manipur, Pazo Bibi’s Balochistan and Obama’s America


[ The Friday Times (Lahore), December 28 – January 03, 2012 – Vol. XXIV, No. 46 ; Frontier(web), 27 Nov 2012 ]

By- Garga Chatterjea

The most successful tyranny is not the one that uses force to assure uniformity, but the one that removes awareness of other possibilities, that makes it seem inconceivable that other ways are viable, that removes the sense that there is an outside.

—Allan Bloom

When there is a festival, it may create an illusion as if the ‘whole world’ is happy at this moment. Or so we like to think. Solitary wails cannot be heard above the sea of laughter. For a certain segment of inhabitants of the Indian Union, the high note of last November was Barrack Obama’s victory in the US presidential elections. He asked for 4 more years. He got it. Resident and non-resident desis watched his victory speech of hope.  USA may or may not have 4 more years of hope, but that November also marked 12 years of hopelessness in a part of this subcontinent. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Gandhi that Gandhi never was, finished 12 years of her epic fast, protesting the torture perpetrated by the armed wing of the Indian state in Manipur, especially in the cover of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). And she is not finished, yet. She may get 12 more years. I sincerely hope not.

A major part of the reason why the cries of Manipuri women, as exemplified by Irom Sharmila Chanu, can be ignored is the purported ‘insignificance’ of Manipur in the ‘national’ scene. This ‘national scene’ effectively came into being in the Indian Union after the Republic was proclaimed in 1950. Even before the Indian Union was a Republic, it had managed to dismiss the democratically elected government of Manipur led by the Praja Shanti party. The Congress had fought the elections of Manipur and lost. Manipur, with an elected government and at that point not an integral part of the Union, was annexed by the Union of India, which was still not a Republic. Original sins often create particularly bad ulcers.  Excision is not an option for a ‘modern nation state’. Hence ‘insignificant’ ulcers bleed on as the rest of the body is on pain-killers, reading history and civics dutifully from official textbooks.

The focus on the US presidential election also focused the minds of some desis on to the two other elections happening in the USA at the same time – those to the US Congress and the US Senate. Let us understand a few things carefully. The US Congress is analogous to the Lok Sabha of the Indian Union. But the USA is a nation constituted by a more real commitment to federalism rather than a semantic charade in the name of federalism. Hence its upper house, the US Senate is not analogous to the Rajya Sabha of the Indian Union. In the lower house in both USA and the Indian Union, the numbers of seats are meant to be proportional to the population. This represents that strand of the nation-state that gives precedence to the whole. This whole is ahistorical and is a legal instrument, though much time and money is spent in the Indian Union to create a fictional past of this legal form. The upper house in the USA represents that strand where past compacts and differing trajectories and identities are represented in the form of states. The states form the ‘United’ States of America – hence in the Senate the unit is the state, not the individual citizen. That is why in the US Senate, each state, irrespective of population, has 2 members. This respects diversity of states and acts as a protection against the domination of more populous states and ensures that smaller states are respected and are equal stake-holders of the Union. In the Indian Union, the so-called ‘Rajya Sabha’ is simply a copy of the Lok Sabha, with multiple staggered time offsets. Even in the Rajya Sabha, the seats allotted to each state are roughly proportional to its population – and hence at its core does not represent any different take on the Indian Union. In the Sabha of the Rajyas, the Rajyas are not the unit, making a mockery of the name itself. Manipur has 1 representative in a Rajya Sabha of 245 members. Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Goa, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura altogether have 7 members in that Rajya Sabha. No group thinks of themselves as ‘lesser people’ for being fewer in number. A federal democratic union is not only for the children of Bharatmata. It is a way of having a joint family with many mothers, for no one’s mata is less important than my mata.

This pattern is replicated all across the subcontinent. When one looks to the west, once sees the autonomy of the Khanate of Kalat being usurped unilaterally as part of the ‘One Unit’ scheme, again by a fresh Pakistan state that itself did not possess a republican constitution. And there too, one sees a festering ulcer that bleeds intermittently. Sweeping powers given to the Frontier Corps do not help. Nor do the extra-judicial killings and torture of young Baloch activists help. Piercing an ulcer with a dirty knife risks a general blood poisoning. Every missing person, every body-less head, every tortured torso that ‘appears’ by the highway in Balochistan makes the lofty pronouncements about human rights made from Islamabad that much more hollow. And even if the Baloch decided to try to democratic path, what can they do in a system where they count for less than a tenth of the seats, in the national assembly. In November, the extra-ordinary powers of the Frontier Corps were extended in Balochistan again. Maintaining ‘law and order’ is the universal answer to all protestations – that same cover that the British used to beat brown people into pulp. If the brutal actions of the Frontier Corps as well as the impunity enjoyed by themselves sounds familiar across the border, it is because their colonial cousins in Khaki also have a similar record of glory. It is this impunity that has broader implications. Live footages of Sarfaraz Shah’s killing or Chongkham Sanjit’s murder will not lead to anyone’s pension being withheld. Behind the scenes, there might well be pats on the backs for the ‘lions’.

It is useful to understand why it is in the best interest of a democratic Union that the Rajya Sabha be constituted on a fundamentally different paradigm than the Lok Sabha, rather than replicating it. In contrast to the ‘whole’ viewpoint, the regions of the Indian Union and Pakistan have diverse pasts, some of which have hardly ever been intertwined with the ‘centre’, however defined. This also means that concerns, aspirations and visions of the future also differ based on a region’s perceived attitude towards a monolithic ‘whole’. A federal democratic union is one that does not discriminate between aspirations and is rather flexible enough to accommodate differing aspirations. Rather than using ‘unity in diversity’ as an anxious mantra of a paranoid monolith, one might want to creatively forge a unity whose first step is the honest assessment of diversity by admitting that the Indian Union or Pakistan are really multi-national nation-states.

Irom Sharmila’s struggle is failing partly because in this fight for dignity of the Manipuri people, the subcontinental constitutions drowns the voice of the victim in the crowd of the apathetic and the indifferent, inside and outside the legislative chambers of Delhi and Islamabad. Violence then becomes a way to be heard above the high decibel ritual chants of the ‘idea of India’ or ‘fortress of Islam’ or ‘Jinnah’s Pakistan’. Ideologically vitiated ‘national’ school syllabi and impunity of military forces do not produce unity – it produces a polarization between unity and diverse dignities. There is no unity without the constitutive parts’ dignity. Hindi majoritarianism or Punjabi-Urdu majoritarianism may not appear so to its practitioners but from the vantage of the step-children of the majoritarian nation-state, the world looks very different.  When such questions are raised in the subcontinent, one may see tacit agreement or opposition. As far as the opposition goes, it is important to make a few mental notes. Is the person who opposes the idea for whatever reason, from Delhi/Islamabad/Lahore or broadly from North India / West Punjab? Also, has the concerned person lived most of their adult life in a province different from where his/her grandfather lived. If the answer to either if this is yes, there is a high likelihood that the pattern of response to questions raised in this piece will be of a certain kind. Inherent majorities with the noblest of democratic pretensions end up forming imperious centres in the name of a union. A democratic union of states takes into cognizance the subcontinent as it is, not the subcontinent that delhiwallas and isloo/lahorewallas would want it to be like.

A point often made by legal honchos of the subcontinent is that neither Pakistan nor the Union of India is a union of states in the same way the United States of America is. What they mean is that these nation-states did not come into being due to some agreement or treaty between states. Rather they maintain that the states/provinces are arbitrary legal entities/ instruments created by the respective constitutions for administrative ease. What such a reading aims to do is to delegitimize any expression of aspiration of the states/provinces that may not be in line with the centre. How can an arbitrary legal entity created by central fiat and also alterable by fiat have autonomous will? This legalese collapses in the face of sub-continental reality where states/provinces as they exist today are broadly along ethno-linguistic lines. These entities are along ethno-linguistic lines ( and more are in the pipeline in Seraiki province or Telegana) because ‘administrative’ units can only be arbitrary to a point, irrespective of the total arbitrariness that constitutions permit. The ethno-linguistic ground-swells are real, aspirations to homeland are real, and since the capital cities do not have enough experimental chambers to convert all inhabitants into ‘nothing but Indian’ or ‘nothing but Pakistani’, these are here to stay and do not seem to have any immediate plans of committing suicide. While the specific drawing of the lines may be arbitrary (something that applies to the whole nation-state too), that in no way makes the reality of ethno-linguistic community habitats vanish. A legal stranglehold that denies this reality also ends up denying that the subcontinent existed before the constitutions were drawn up. If the BritIsh didn’t happen to the subcontinent, and if one or more large nation-states had to happen in the subcontinent, such entities would have been due to agreements between different near-sovereign entities. That states/provinces did not have such agency to make such a compact in 1947 is a legacy of British rule. Ironically, such a scenario bequeathed from the British is the bedrock of the post-colonial nation-states of Pakistan and the Indian Union. Both like to call themselves federal, for no one else calls them so.

A creative re-conceptualization of the distribution of representation and power in the Indian Union as well as Pakistan may show that one does not necessarily need to choose between the unity and diversity. Accounting for more than a sixth of humanity and a serious breadth of non-domesticated diversity, that subcontinental experiment is worth doing, irrespective of its outcome. A people’s democratic union is not only feasible but also humane. For far too long, bedtime stories commissioned by the state have been read out in schools and in media outlets, so that our deep metropolitan slumber is not interrupted by real nightmares in rougher parts. But there are just too many truths to spoil the myth.

Manipur’s Irom Sharmila: Our Irom Sharmila # Sundayreading #Poems


By- Upal Deb

“Thunder will blow away/

Storms too are ephemeral/

though shameless, the dark force will bid farewell/

to beauty someday//

Spring goes on endless”.

This is how a young Manipuri poet sings the heart of everybody of his state. Spring in heart can wait. But this heart will sing on. Till the boots and bullets bid farewell. The heart of hearts, our Meira Paibi, this is how a Kerala playwright dubbed IROM SHARMILA, a torch-bearer….can rekindle a hope, or awaken us cautiously to the spite of state laws. Sharmila is a champion to the cause of human rights in her state. Specifically, she is seeking the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), an emergency legislation that has been in force in Manipur since 1980, under which the right to life lies suspended. Fake encounters, torture, rapes and the disappearance of ordinary citizens are commonplace in regions that come under AFSPA. Since November 2000, when a group of soldiers from the Assam Rifles shot dead a 10 civilians standing at a bus-stop, she has refused to eat, drink or even brush her teeth, she has not seen her mother too since the fast began. Charged with trying to commit suicide, she has been repeatedly arrested, detained and force-fed by tubes inserted into her nose twice a day. Her sacrifice focuses on a struggle barely glimpsed in the rest of India, let among the wider world. A decades-long insurgency by up to 50 armed groups and the subsequent rule by troops may only see a saturnalia where as a poet from different land said, “Between the closed eyes/ in the air all black”. Rule of the gun in a lunatic frenzy. But Manipur survives on hope. Blood its witness.
This post of poems offers a peep into poetic responses to a state in siege, offers a nod to the resilience of Sharmila and her people. Needless to say, her people include us all living between death-wish and dream of spring, between wounds of dawn and songs of life.

1. ~YES~/ K.Satchidanandan (Malayalam)
(For Irom Sharmila)

My body is
my flag at half-mast.
My water comes
from Tomorrow’s river,
my bread,
from the wind’s kitchen.
In my brain is a bullet,
green like the clairvoyante’s parrot.

My name is the last letter
of my ancient language,
the final answer to every riddle,
the moral of every proverb,
the god of every magic chant,
the ominous truth of every oracle.

My life leaves me everyday
and everyday it comes back
like the bird that survives the hunters
to return to its nest
with the odour of the forest-rain.

In the night emptied of
the morning’s greetings
and the evening’s prayers,
I lie alone under one desolate star
like the broken bench
in an abandoned village teashop
holding on still
to the warmth and odour
of yesterday’s visitors.

I have forgotten love
like the nameless flower
once seen in a flash
on a village hillock;

my childhood lies sunk in the sand
like the paper boat
pulped by the heavy rain.

My poems are the autumn’s
last yellow leaves.

My kids turned into vapour
by the echoes of rifles’ reports
will come down heavily
as a rain of blood
over those soldiers of hell.

I won’t be there; but
my hope will be :
a word from the mountain
that doesn’t need to be tube-fed,
a poem from the woods
no boots can crush,
an alphabet of steel
no bayonet can pierce,
a purple hibiscus:

My Manipur heart
ever in bloom.

(TR: By the poet from the original Malayalam. K. Satchidanandan is one of India’s finest poets and a respected critic. He was a nominee for the Nobel literature prize in 2011).

2. ~Ibomcha Singh~/Subodh Sarkar (Bengali)

’95, in a wintry Delhi, in a poetry reading
at Sahitya Akademi,
Ibomcha Singh twittered out like a bird:
–Come in my homeland, at Manipur’s Moirang

Moirang, what a lovely name it is, who named it?
Just in a distance, Asia’s most beautiful lake, Loktak,
A colour like a child’s gum.
There’s nothing lovelier than
a child’s gum.

In the midnight, from Manipur a phone call: Ibomcha Singh
I said: what’s happening there in your state?

–What’s happening? Don’t you all know this?
If tomorrow the Assam Rifles
barge into Tagore’s Jorasanko household
and masturbate in front of Rabindranath?
How will you feel?
If tomorrow at the Gariahat Road a teacher
is stripped and made to do rounds of
sit-down stand-up before his students?
How will you feel?
If tomorrow the daughter of your Sankha Ghosh
is bundled off? How will you feel?

Ibomcha Singh was in tears

I sat motionless
Did he call from Manipur?
Or from across India?
Nine hills surrounding
the Loktak Lake are fading out
Trucks of the Assam Rifles
march through these hills
Did they kidnap Manorama, did they?

Did Ibomcha Singh call me,
Or was it anyone else?
His daughter can’t go to the school
If she doesn’t return!
No, how can this be possible,
we have one Constitution
who has scripted another?

–The military can quarantine you
You cannot lead a nation with them
Even the military know this
and you do not know this?

(Tr: Upal Deb from Bengali. Subodh Sarkar is a well-known name in contemporary Bengali poetry. His poetry is often marked by mordant irony and insights into our social dynamics).

3. ~ Sister~/ Saratchand Thiyam (Manipuri)

This rain has not let up
Don’t get out yet, sister.

It’s only a semblance of afternoon
After it decided to live in
With its paramour Night
This is no longer the afternoon we know

Your umbrella alone will be useless, sister
You’ll not be able to cover
Your body from the raindrops.

Haven’t you heard this sound
The commotion in every home
Of the still incoherent babies.
Don’t you go sister
This rain is only becoming harder
Don’t you go sister
Don’t you go.

Look sister, every courtyard
Has become
Mangarak kanbi*
Since, I won’t allow to go
Every road is reverberating
With the deafening utterance of boots.

Hide inside the house, sister
Don’t you go at all

*Mangarak kanbi is a place in Manipur. Early Meiteis used to throw
the bodies of people who died unnatural deaths in Mangarak kanbi.

(TR: Robin S. Ngangom from Manipuri. A very popular poet, Saratchand Thiyam is
also a sports columnist. He is an engineer by profession).

4. ~Manipur~/Mona Lisa Jena (Odia)

The soldiers can recognize
They can sense the stench
A roof without walls on the wayside
Breathing of eleven dead human beings
It smothers their lungs….
How many years more
till her petition lies unanswered?
Alone,
She gasps out these days
in a mud hut, walled by gun point
An ordinary young woman, dogged to the core,
She is not afraid of working hard
She does not beg anyone….
Like this, one morning
Many, many days ago
A morsels of rice ran short
In the Ima Market
Thousands of ‘mothers’ had assembled
At Kangla’s main roads
Not even a smidgen
of rice could be shipped way from their country.
Like this
Just recently,
They had uncovered their bosoms and humiliated
the unashamed administrators

And yet,
They were not shameless.
They did not vend their semi-naked body
In the market place
At the Ima Market
Of women only.

From the long over bridge
One can see clear
their carnival, all tinctured in crimson
because many women are together
they do not ripple out
A sea of flames….

Their dust-laden sobbing
And the flashes
wafting in fitfully
leave trails in the heart:
It is painful to be a woman!

(TR: By the poet from Odia. Monalisa Jena is a promising Odia short story writer and poet.).

5. ~Manipur: 2~/ Thaudam Netrojit Singh (Manipuri)

What’s the crime of these children,
Are they disinherited from life?
Why do they ride the cremation-bed?
In your inviting lap
are they so fond of death
like nectar-like mother’s milk?

The paths to the cremation ground
are all mud today
Mothers’ tears mingle with
blood of the cremation
in dry colours of the red rose

Say
for whom is the door
of the vacant room open
before the despairing heart of the veiled mothers?

What else can you hear
other than sad sound of the cymbals and
mridangam?
Have you ever heard
love songs echoing back, floating from
a land of peace?
Did the generous men sing paeans
in the infinite sky for you alone
in hope of flying till eternity
in wings of white pigeons
whose feet are tied with
garlands?

No
You’re only the night without a face
Even your blue sky
pales in smoke.

(37-year old Thaudam Netrojit Singh is an up-and-coming Manipuri poet, playwright and story writer).

6. ~Death of a Poet~/ Irungbom Deven (Manipuri)

In a closed abandoned room
lies a decomposed corpse
rotten, putrid
body of some poet
Cause of his death
still unknown
The police let out offhand:
This is a suicide
People around whisper:
This is certainly a murder
Whatever
the reality is
he is dead
With his poems in hand
the police finally say:
They are his suicide note.

7. ~News of My Death~/ Irungbom Deven

1
Last night an unknown man
was mercilessly killed
The body was not found
Combing operation is on

2
Morning
Evening
Night
I walk on endlessly
towards the unknown
I walk
my dead body
on the shoulders.

3
On the front page
of the newspapers
the news of my death
with photos

I am reading this news!

(TR: 5, 6 and 7 by Upal Deb from Bengali translation of original Manipuri poems. Irungbom Deven is a leading Manipuri poet. He is a professional doctor).

 

Irom Sharmila -On hunger strike for 12 years , will continue


 

 

Irom Sharmila in India’s Manipur state is force-fed in detention, but refuses to give up protest against draconian Act.
Subir Bhaumik Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012, Al Jazeera 

Irom Sharmila has been demanding the repeal of a law that allows troops to act with impunity [AFP]

Frail and suffering after being on fast for more than 12 years, Irom Sharmila proclaims she will die on hunger strike unless India repeals the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) .

The AFSPA gives security forces sweeping powers,including the power to shoot people dead on mere suspicion, while operating in areas afflicted by rebellions – like in Sharmila’s Manipur state on India’s far eastern border with Myanmar (Burma).

“How can men in uniform enjoy such powers in a democracy which they so often misuse? This Act must be repealed if India  is serious about its democracy. Or else, I will continue my hunger-strike until I die,” says the frail Sharmila , who turned 40 on March 14 this year.

On November 2, 2000, troops of India’s elite counter-insurgency force Assam Rifles opened indiscriminate fire on a market at Malom near Manipur’s state capital Imphal. Ten civilians were killed on the spot – among them a 60-year-old woman and three teenage boys, one of whom had won the Prime Minister’s Award for Bravery.

The Assam Rifles forces were upset after one of Manipur’s more than a dozen rebel groups attacked one of their patrols – but the people they killed in retaliation were innocent civilians who had no involvement in the attack.

“That was a Thursday, the day I used to fast every week. I was so shocked by the massacre at Malom that I just decided to continue my fast unless the draconian law was repealed,” Sharmila said, lying on her bed in the Imphal hospital, where she is held in “judicial custody” and force-fed every day through a tube in her nose to keep her alive.

“This is a symbolic fight for the people of Manipur who have suffered so much at the hands of the security forces. Hundreds of our boys and girls have been killed on mere suspicion of being rebels. This is possible because the
AFSPA gives so much power to the security forces. This Act must go,” she said.

Brother Irom Singhajit Singh recalls that his sister had one last supper with pastries and sweets, then touched her mother’s feet to seek her blessings to begin the epic fast.

Popular weapon

Hunger strike has been a popular weapon of protest in India since Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, popularised it during the anti-colonial struggle. But nobody has been on fast longer than Sharmila.

Manipur has been ravaged by four decades of separatist insurgency, with close to a dozen groups involved in fighting Indian forces and, often, amongst themselves. Thousands have died – among them, many young men and women killed on mere suspicion of involvement with the rebel groups.

Once in a while, Manipur has erupted over such killings, as it happened eight years ago, when another young girl Thangjam Manorama was allegedly raped and shot by the Assam Rifles soldiers and left to die on a village road.

The Indian federal government set up a high power committee to look into the popular demand of scrapping the AFSPA, perhaps to pacify the people’s anger.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive , because if she dies, there may be an uproar.”

- Babloo Loithongbam, Human Rights activist

The five-member committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Jeevan Reddy, unanimously recommended for repeal of the draconian AFSPA.

But under severe pressure from the Army and the para-military forces, the federal government backed off, even refusing to place the committee’s report for discussion in the parliament.

The Army says that it cannot operate against armed rebels unless covered by this AFSPA.

“Either keep the AFSPA and allow us to use it or don’t involve us in counter-insurgency operations. We will be happy to be back in our barracks,” says former Indian Army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury .

For the past 50 years, the Indian army and its para-military troops have battled scores of rebel groups in the country’s troubled Northeastern states, a region considered strategic by Delhi because it is hemmed in between Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Nepal and Bhutan.

Last year, a group of 25 civil rights activists from across the country, went on a long march from the rebellion-scarred state of Jammu and Kashmir all the way to Manipur on the India-Myanmar border to draw attention to Sharmila’s epic fast and the cause for which she has sacrificed her youth.

The protest march attracted global media attention and rights activists across the world came out to express solidarity with Sharmila’s epic hunger strike to demand scrapping of the controversial AFSPA.

But it had no effect on Delhi as the Indian government conveniently turned the other way, retaining the AFSPA and ignoring the march and the world’s longest hunger strike.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive, because if she dies, there may be an uproar,” says Manipur’s leading human rights activist Babloo Loithongbam.

The ‘Iron Lady of Manipur

Three days after she started her hunger strike, Irom Sharmila was arrested and charged with “attempting to commit suicide”. Since then, she has been force-fed through a tube in her nose. Every year, she is released once and then promptly re-arrested on the same charges and the routine goes on.

Back in her heavily-guarded hospital ward, Sharmila is unmoved and determined to carry forward her struggle.

“I fast until the AFSPA goes. I have not wasted 12 years of my life to back off. Either my people live with respect or I don’t eat,” says Irom Sharmila, now called the “Iron Lady of Manipur” for her historic feat.

Brother Singhajit remembers his sister as being “always different “.

“She was always modest with few friends, never liked to dress up or use jewellery. She read religious books, practiced yoga and naturopathy,” he says. “She has not changed a bit.”

In her years of hunger strike, Sharmila has won many awards, including one for lifetime achievement from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has promised to take up her case before the United Nations.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens.”

- Irom Sharmila

Two Indian politicial parties, the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI(M-L), have supported Sharmila’s cause and her hunger strike, joining the chorus for scrapping the controversial AFSPA.

But while the Trinamul Congress rules the eastern state of West Bengal and has some lawmakers in northeastern states like Sharmila’s home state Manipur, the CPI(M-L) is on the margins of Indian politics.

In recent weeks, the chief minister of the troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who represents the regional party, National Conference, has pitched in to support Sharmila’s demand for scrapping the AFSPA.  Abdullah says the Act is often misused by security forces while fighting rebel groups and civilians end up as victims of their excesses.

But no major political party in India has so far come out in support of the “Iron Lady” who is making history by her unique protest.

That does not worry Sharmila much.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens,” says Sharmila.

‘ #Irom Sharmila feels fasting is what she is meant to do in life’


Irom Sharmila in her hospital ward prison

Rediff.com, Nov 5, 2012

Today, Irom Sharmila, the Manipur civil rights activist, marks 12 years of her fast in protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state. She remains in judicial custody where she continues to be force-fed through her nose.

Deepti Priya Mehrotra, author of Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur, recalls her association with the Iron Lady of Manipur.

I met her initially in October 2006 in Delhi just to pay my respects. But I kept going back to her, and met her on multiple occasions in the months to come. I found that she was extremely friendly and takes great interest in people and things around her.

She is very attractive, and is very sharp, quick and reactive. We hit it off and started chatting the instant we met. She really wants to know so much. She asked me questions about myself and asked what I teach — who were my students, how I travelled. I found that she preferred to do things the economical way; she would have preferred the bus.

She also started telling me about her own family. She is the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. She is very close to her family and extended family members who all live nearby in a village at the edge of Imphal.

She spoke very fondly of Manipur — her motherland, her birthplace, and has a sense of deep commitment, passion and involvement for it. She is also very close to many people in different generations of her extended family. She was readily involved with what other people in her family did, like spinning. She also liked to walk, and used to cycle around in Manipur.

She told me about her early school days. She said she didn’t like books in school.

Sharmila studied till class XII, and never went to college. The problem with text books, she said, was that they didn’t tell her anything about real life.

I feel the violence she witnessed triggered her poetry. She just couldn’t accept the violence and wanted to do something about it.

And then, one day, after the massacre at Malom village [an alleged encounter by Assam Rifles resulted in the death of 10 people in November 2000], she decided she had to do something. The next morning, she sought blessings from her mother and her elder brother, and the long fast began. I don’t feel that she could have gauged how long the fast would be. I doubt if she still thinks about it.

But she surely is very fond of food. When I met her in a jail in Imphal in 2007, the first question she asked me was if I had tasted Manipuri curries. She said she would cook for me once and then explained the dishes and ingredients in much detail.

She does have some skills in cooking. She is a vegetarian, a rarity in her family and the community.

Coming back to her education, Sharmila never attended college even though she experimented with many options after school. She learnt tailoring, worked with a social group for blind children, but it was her assignment a month before taking up the fast that I believe led her to a very strong belief in what she was doing.

The human rights group she was part of trained her for a few weeks about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and then she went along with this team to meet a cross-section of people. I feel it must have brought her to a kind of boiling point. She saw rape victims, spoke to them, went to villages where people had disappeared.

Irom Sharmila is produced at the chief judicial magistrate's court in Imphal every fortnight

I feel that she also connected very deeply with the Meira Paibis, a group of old local women, who have traditionally saved the community from alcohol and drugs, and later from the atrocities by the armed forces. This group is very special to Manipuri society and is present in every village. I feel she felt very strongly connected to them.

But as a person, I often think of her as a very quiet girl, sitting quietly in a corner, observing, feeling and thinking, and taking everything in. She is a very vibrant person, very warm, polite and close to nature.

She was briefly shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi in 2006, and could move around in a garden closeby. I remember one evening, she saw a squirrel and wanted to know everything about it.

During her stay in Delhi, I always found a pile of book neatly stacked next to her bed. Among those books was a Quran, the Bible, Upanishads, books on Buddhism, religion and poetry. She also read Manipuri newspaper and Japanese folk stories.

I think she was really happy when she was in Delhi, because she could meet people. But when she is imprisoned in Manipur, she is not allowed to meet anybody. I mean, she is arrested every year on charges of trying to commit suicide because she refuses to eat. She has not been arrested as a political prisoner.

And so she is imprisoned for a maximum duration of one year, freed for a few days, and then arrested again.

You would be surprised to know that she has neither spoken to nor met her mother ever since she undertook the fast. She believes that her mother would be very unhappy with her not eating and that might make her weak. Her mother has not met her for the same reasons.

There is a small hut a little distance away from the prison in Imphal. Each year she stays in that hut for while, before she is re-arrested. And her demand is a single sentence: repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state.

I have often asked her family members the question: where does she get her strength from? And I remember her elder brother once said to me, “I will tell you where she gets her strength from. It’s our grandmother.” Her grandmother lived for 104 years.(Smiles)

Lots of people suspect that people pressurise her to stay her on fast. Also because the fast has been very effective, there is no doubt that it brought international attention to the state and its people.

But I don’t think she feels any pressure to continue it. The government and the authorities would love it if she breaks the fast. They will immediately grant her bail and close the case. It has become a big irritant for the government.

She feels that undertaking the fast is what she is meant to do in life. She believes deeply that that’s her purpose, and that’s what God wants her to do.

As told to Priyanka.

 

Image: Irom Sharmila in her hospital ward prison
Photographs: Chitra Ahanthem