An year ago, the nation rose to a widespread anger and dissent against patriarchy and violence against women. There were agitations and candle light vigils around the country with a single demand of protecting the dignity of women. The media was constantly supporting the anger and telecasted it from every corner of the country. The government soon heeded to the demands of the young angry India and passed an ordinance to make punishment for crime against women more severe and rigorous. An year has passed since then, the media was again ready with the old footage of agitations, social organizations started building campaigns on social networking sites and this year also the nation came out in solidarity for all the victims of violence against women.
While the nation showed its solidarity and support for Nirbhaya, another woman in Manipur entered the 14th year of her hunger strike on 5th November with a demand to repeal the Armed Force Special Powers Act(AFSPA) and her voice is still unheard. All of us know her but sadly there was no discussion on her demands, people did not come out on streets in large numbers against the fake encounters, killings, torture, kidnapping and even rapes which were made in the veil of this act because this act under its sections provides impunity to the armed forces and no criminal case can be lodged against them without prior permission from the central government. It is to be noted that the act of Irom Sharmila is not to protect only women, but all the people irrespective of gender. People do show sympathy towards her but many don’t know her demands and many don’t care about them, maybe because it is not being taken up by the media as strongly as the media takes up other issues.
It appears as if the mainstream media has made a rule to only show Irom Sharmila when Anna Hazare sits on fast or she completes another year under arrest. It was sad to learn that National Human Rights Commission, which has always been proactive in lodging and summoning officials for allegations of human rights violations, has not even bothered, in the past 13 years, to meet the lady who is under arrest from the last many years on charges of “attempt to suicide” and it was only after the Supreme Court asked the commission to take stock of situation in Manipur that the NHRC paid its first visit to the lady. Her demands may be right or wrong but to decide what is right and what is wrong, a proper and detailed discussion is needed and that discussion must be done by the government not on roads or in some newspaper column, but in the parliament.
The irony is that in a country where people are so agitated these days against gender based violence, a part of the same country has been witnessing several atrocities from last many years and no one came out in supportÂ even though a lady has been protesting against them. Organizations like Amnesty are taking up this matter but it appears as if the government is determined to ignore the non violent struggle of Irom Sharmila. If government continues to ignore this lady, the people of north east will soon realize that there is no point of the struggle being nonviolent and they may rise against the state with violent means. Irom Sharmila might be receiving huge support from the intellectuals and progressive organizations but a large section of media and government continues to ignore her.
It is not about recognizing the efforts of this lady but to recognize her demands and a proper discussion must be done by the government to pay heed to the demands being raised by her and thousands of other people from the North East. I hope whenever the nation will rise again to pay homage to the Delhi brave heart, they will keep in mind the atrocities being faced by their brothers and sisters in Manipur and other part of North East and some day they will come out in large numbers for this lady and the demand to repeal AFSPA.