Friday, March 2, 2012

To tell or not to tell…the story of Manipur

The topic I've chosen to write about is one that has not gotten its fair share of attention in mainstream media. It's an issue of immense national importance that should be debated and discussed in schools and colleges around the country. In highlighting this issue I strive to make a point that the media, though immensely powerful, doesn’t always get its priorities right.

Today there isn't really a lot of difference between much of the Indian media and the corporate world. TRP’s are more important than the truth. In the plethora of channels that spring up all the time, only the fittest will get the ad revenue required for sustenance. That comes by pandering to the advertiser rather
than to the reader. Thus, we see coverage of a Pink Chaddi campaign or who is Salman Khan's latest romantic interest more often than we see a serious issue.

A prime example is the lack of attention to the plight of the women in Manipur and other regions of the North-East who face state–sponsered atrocities in the form of the AFSPA.

It seems that most people in our country are struck by the NIMBY syndrome—Not In My Back Yard.
While rummaging through the countless stories that do not make it to prime time TV, one comes across people who possess the selflessness and passion to be perfect role models to society.

There are few in the world like Irom Sharmila. Perhaps it is becasue, a lady who has been on a hunger strike for more than a decade in a city most people only know on a map isn't as attractive as Rakhi Sawant. People like Sharmila, who are ready to die for what they believe in, live the ideals that made this nation.

Merely 28 when she decided it was her ‘unbound duty’ to take responsibility for what was happening in her state she decided to protest in a way that seemed fit to her, a non violent hunger strike.

In the midst of cynicism she had the audacity to hope. If I were to believe in reincarnation I would say without doubt, we have a M. K. Gandhi in our midst. This shows us how much the world has hardened, the present day Gandhi barely musters support for her cause.

Here is something to bring up to speed those who are unfamiliar with the arbitrary reign of AFSPA in Manipur. On November 2, 2000, ten people were killed when a paramilitary force opened fire at a bus-stop near Malom in Manipur. Most of those killed were women and students. The firing was followed by a brutal combat operation. The troops of 8th Assam Rifles were deployed in Malom to counter
the ‘insurgent’ attack in the area. Those killed at the Malom massacre were L Sana Devi (60), G Bap Sharma (50), O Sanayaima (50), K Bijoy (35) A Raghumani (34), S Robinson Singh (27), Ksh Inaocha (23), T Shantikumar (19), S Prakash Singh (18) and S Chandramani (17.)

This was one of the many incidents that have taken place in Manipur during the reign of the AFSPA

Thus began the fight of Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady from Manipur whose fast completed 10 years last year.
Though Sharmila began her marathon fast in protest, the investigation into the Malom massacre is not complete after 10 years.

It has taken 10 years for the government to pay heed to the issue and respond by repealing the Act in greater Imphal.

This is not reason enough for us to rejoice, there are still many things to be achieved. People of the state have been oppressed for such a long time, torn between the devil and the deep blue sea, the militants and the AFSPA, and the state is yet to wake from its coma.

While the people of Manipur have been stripped of their basic rights for over sixty years, repealing the Act is not the final answer. It is just the beginning of what the Indian government can do to remedy the situation.

I believe militancy takes place due to socio-economic divides in a given state, the oppression of the common man and lack of opportunities to better their standard of living.

The first step that the government could take would be to provide better infrastructure and improve the conditions of existing hospitals, banks, schools and other basic facilities. Lift the state out of its hazy existence and make it live again.

I would like to end this essay with a stanza from a poem by Irom Sharmila that is in essence the situation in Manipur

“Let the gate of the prison be flung wide
I will not go on another path
Please remove the shackles of thorn
Let me be not accused
For being incarnated in the life of a bird.”
- Irom Sharmila

(College entrance essay that I found. This was written early 2011 hence certain facts may be different.)