Have you heard of Anna Hazare? Of course you have. He is been the subject of endless news coverage, high profile interviews including the one with the prime minister of India and of course countless ‘Like’s in Facebook. He caused a national stir by fasting to turn the spotlight on the government to curb corruption. A massive following, mainly that of younger generation, sprung in support of him throughout the country and the central government took him serious enough to enact some of his demands into the anti-corruption bill.
But did you know there is another fasting going on in India? This fasting is due to political reasons as well but there is one crucial difference. This hunger strike has gone on for a mind numbing 11 years. The Government does not pay attention to it and media happily ignores it. Yes, Iron Sharmila, of Manipur, has been fasting for more than a decade and majority of the country doesn’t even know about it.
A friend of mine told me recently about Irom Sharmila and her decade long hunger strike and I could not believe my ears. How can one person go on a fast for that long? Fasting for a year itself sounds incredible, but 11 years is incomprehensible. Today I saw an article in Time.com about her, her struggle and why she has been ignored for so long.
The spark for Sharmila’s strike came out in Nov 2000, when a group of paramilitary forces shot and killed 10 civilians in Manipur. Since then she has been in continuous strike. The primary goal of her hunger strike is to force the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which allows the paramilitary forces to arrest anyone they suspect without any evidence and keep them under detention indefinitely. Various human rights groups have decried this law saying that it promotes unlawful brutality and executions.
She has been arrested many times under, oddly enough, ”attempt to commit suicide” charges. If they did not want her to die, all they have to do is repeal the law. Instead they arrest her and then release her and then arrest her again. May be its complicated.
Everyone is talking about Hazare and his strike, but how come Sharmila’s story is buried underground. Hazare ended is campaign a while back and he still gets substantial media coverage, but here is a steely woman who has done what must be supernatural, all for a social cause and sadly I had to read about her in a foreign magazine.
Its not that Hazare got too much attention. Anyone who is fighting for social causes needs to get as much support from all quarters as possible. But the fact that Irom Sharmila’s fight has remained largely invisible is simply unjust.
If anything it shows the painful and troubling state of the media and the country at large.
[Post: 90 of 365] [Days Missed: 35]
I am on a blog-a-day-for-a-year crusade. Keep me motivated with your comments. Or be happy that the weekend is here.