Irom Sharmila and our democracy

Irom Sharmila – a name that will soon be lost among the crowd of a billion others.  She ended her hunger strike, after 16 years. In these times when people burn buses and buildings for demanding reservation as they are “from the weaker sections of the society”, Irom’s movement was a peaceful and non-violent agitation against the system. How it lasted for 16 long years, I will never understand. However, isn’t this an example that shows you can protest in a democratic manner, without leading to riots and destruction of public property, if your conscience is pure?  I am not sure, but this must be the longest hunger strike in the history of human civilisation, and this protest did not spill any blood. Why shouldn’t I celebrate this as a historic moment in our democracy and Irom as a leading light in this dark country? Whether her demand for removal of AFSPA from Manipur was right and justified, is a separate discussion we must engage in some other day. Can a citizen of our country fight for his ideas and principles, even if they are not right according to popular perception, is what concerns me today. However, haven’t we failed as a democracy anyway?

If Irom were a dalit, Mayawati would have made sure she got Bharat Ratna. If Irom were a Muslim, some political party would have made this a case of “oppression of minorities” and Pakistan would have marked this as a black day. If Irom were from “mainland India”, majority of our country would have known her. She never got the support from us because she was from a remote state, fighting against a law which doesn’t affect majority of us directly. If she were in Delhi fighting against corruption, wouldn’t she be a national hero? Ohh wait, we already made Anna Hazare our hero. Enough said.

Will we read about Irom in our school textbooks? I don’t think so. The people of Manipur and her supporters wanted to make Irom a martyr, so as to bask in her glory, just like they have been doing for the last 16 years, without taking any concrete steps for their cause. AFSPA remains untouched, so do the associated problems. Meanwhile, people from “mainland” India keep burning buses, buildings and other people over caste, religion, reservation etc. So, in the end, everyone wins!

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