Can you imagine a person being on a hunger strike for ten years while the the rest of the world goes about its business. Yes, that is what has happened for the last one decade as Sharmila continues to lay on a hospital bed; forced fed by the Indian state and protected by police security while doing so. We all forgot over the years. Until yesterday afternoon when, a group of passionate peace marchers from Kerala who were on their way from Cherthala to Imphal, to raise people’s consciousness about the Irom Sharmila and the violence of the AFSPA Act in the north east, passed by Pune city. We were again reminded to sit up and take action.
Well, I cannot remember anywhere in Indian history where a hunger striker has lasted so long. No doubt the food pipes are keeping Sharmila alive, but then she must have a courageous soul and a fearless, willingness to embrace death in order to free her people. I have supported many hunger strikes in my city but am yet to see one of this nature. The last two fasts in Pune were, one by Mohan Dharia against the farmer suicides in Maharashtra. He told me later that the fast has made a permanent dent in his health. The other strike was by Raste against the monopolistic manipulations of Indian corporations who also said the same thing. Both friends withdrew their ‘fasts unto death’, after being persuaded by sympathizers to do so. There have also been relay, one day fasts and hunger strikes in Pune by Anna Hazare and his followers to uphold the Right to Information Act.
But Iron Sharmila fasting is the epitome of the human spirit. May she live long and free and may her people also do so!
Here are some Excerpts from a pamphlet published by the Hind Swaraj Centenary Committee, Kerala for the march.
Irom sharmila in the Path of Hind Swaraj
Irom Sharmila, the Manipuri poet is on fast and satyagraha for nearly a decade now. Possible, this may be recorded by historians as a long and unique fight by an individual, who fought with soul force against the rotten political system.
It was due to the human rights violation, rampant as a result of Armed forces Special Powers Act, 1958, AFSPA has led her to take a step in the non-violent way of protest. AFSPA gives full rights to the military to do whatever they want. The people who suffer at the hands of military today have no right to question in the court of law. Irom sSarmila wants that this act should be withdrawn.
To support the nonviolent struggle of Irom sharmila, a group of people from the southern tip of India, i.e. Keral a, organized a yatra to Imphal, known as “Hind Swaraj Peace March”. Along with supporting the struggle of Irom Sharmila, this march highlights and demands that the government should not be deaf and dumb to the people’s non violent agitations that are going on elsewhere. Hind Swaraj completed hundred years on 22nd Novemebner 2009, and is considered to be the treatise of the Gandhian philosophy. In the light of this centenary- celebrating- book, this March wishes to evaluate the struggle of Irom sharmila, which is completing a decade now.
How deep is the the anguish of the common man, when the state uses the organized power against the human rights of its own people? Can we justify the state becomes more violent, when it faces violent agitations from its own group of people? What are the possibilities for the people to fight non violently against the violence of the state? Can we anticipate a state and political system existing without armed power? These are some of the questions raised by Hind Swaraj Peace March.
We will evaluate the centenary celebrating Hind Swaraj and the decade long satyagraha by Irom Sharmila. What Irom is doing during this decade is to challenge the military power of the state with her soul force. What Sharmila is exhibiting is fearlessness unique. She is willing to die before the military and other terror groups.
If we keep deaf against the message of Hind Swaraj, expounded through Irom
Sharmila’s struggle, it will be fatal to us.
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