It was the 6th of November 2000, the third day of fast-to-death by a young woman with unmatched inner strength, whom now we call as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila. She was fasting against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which had provided the Indian Army all the power in the world to kill and rape civilians of North East India. The reason why she started the fast on 4th of November was to protest against the Indian Army brutally killing ten innocent civilians at a bus stop in Malom, a town in Imphal valley, on November 1st, 2000. The killings by the Indian Army had included a 62-year-old woman and a youth, a former national Child Bravery Award winner. Instead of paying any respect to Sharmila’s democratic and peaceful protest against a barbaric act, instead of even trying to listen to what she wanted to speak about, the state forces of the great (!) Indian democracy arrested her charging her of a suicide attempt.
Irom Sharmila’s peaceful non-violent means of protest, the hunger strike idolized by the Gandhis and the Nehrus whom India still claims to follow, was labeled as an attempt to suicide on her third day of protest. With her courage and patience, Irom Sharmila continued to hunger strike and but was arrested several times throughout the decade, each time with the same charge of the suicide attempt. In fact, seeing Irom Sharmila’s case, we people of North East India now have the right to question if India gained its independence because of suicide attempts by Gandhi and his followers by not eating or drinking.
A few days back, a 73 years old Anna Hazare decided to stage a hunger strike to implement a bill that might help bring down corruption. On his third day, he was contacted by the Prime Minister’s office, accolades flowed into him from all section of media and public and the Government agreed to his demands. This time the State forces did not consider him to be staging a suicide attempt. Instead, he was showered with praises by the Government as well as opposition. Though there is no denying the fact the Anna Hazare deserves credit for his strong stand against corruption, the way he succeeded in just three days has understandably astonished the people of North East India because of the paradigm shift of policy of Indian Government in handling the two hunger strikes.
The pain that Iron Sharmila has gone through in the last decade, without food and water, with a food pipe forced into her nose by the Government of India only to keep her alive, is unbelievable. She is undergoing this pain with so much courage and patience only for the people of North East India and if India indeed believes that the people of this region are its own citizens, India must accept that she is fighting for none else but for the people of India against a draconian rule which violates all norms of human rights. Time and again the people of this region have felt and complained that they live under the colonial rule of the Indian state machine and the fact that India continues to pay no importance to her only shows how true the anguish of the people of North East India is.
As pointed out by eminent writer Sanjoy Hazarika, who recently called for Anna Hazare to fast for Irom Sharmila, Irom Sharmila has challenged the system of Indian State Machine while Anna Hazare has only stood against people who work in that system. This is one of the reasons why her justice is long overdue now. The other reason, of course, is that India does not want to bow down to someone who has challenged the Indian Armed forces, especially if that someone is from a region where Indian Army has created most trouble as well as faced most trouble in the decade-long armed rebellions since the first decade of India’s Independence.
However, the reason why the above is written is not to just compare Irom Sharmila from Anna or to blame the Indian Government again and again, while we sit and enjoy at our homes. The reason is to question a recent controversy in Guwahati whether the authorities should permit the public rally against corruption, in which Anna Hazare is set to take part in the Judges field. Guwahati Town Club, led by veteran ex-ULFA Munin Nabish is strictly against letting the newly laid out sports field to be used for a public gathering as it will destroy not only the sports field but also require huge efforts to bring back the field to a condition favorable for sports. The Judges field, after being used only for political reasons for decades was recently given the new look and conditions for hosting several sports and Guwahati Town Club has been taking care of it quite well so far. Even it had denied All Assam Student’s Union from organizing cultural function during the Bihu days, in the sports ground.
It’s really sad to see that Akhil Gogoi, whom now entire Assam looks up to as a hope for the state, is trying to make the controversy of the Judges field political by using the name of Anna Hazare. For the rally, there are several grounds in the city where even a bigger gathering could be hosted, but Akhil is adamant in using the Judges Field since it gives him a chance to put up blame against Himanta Biswa Sharma and the Congress (I) Government whom he had long been fighting against.
What is even sadder and really shameful is that the people of Guwahati, as well as all section of media, are in support of Akhil Gogoi to hold Anna Hazare’s meeting in the Judges Field. In fact, when Munin Nabish of Guwahati Town club lost his temper in a press meet asking what Anna Hazare has done for Assam or North East that they should allow the Judges Field to be destroyed, the media only made fun of him. Next day he too started a hunger strike, protesting Anna Hazare’s meeting at Judges field and asking that it be held somewhere else, only to be made fun of him by the Media further. Akhil Gogoi, the new savior of Assam too is silent.
The question to Akhil Gogoi is why he is so adamant in having Anna Hazare in the Judge Field. It is indeed true that Anna Hazare has done nothing for Assam and has probably never even heard about the problems of the North Eastern Region. While we can not take credit away from his strong stand against Corruption, Akhil Gogoi must understand that just because he has been showered with love and blessings by the people of Assam does not mean he is above everything else. Just as no farmer would like if his cultivable land is converted to a sports complex overnight, no sportsmen would like to see a sports ground being destroyed due to a rally. And as a leader of farmer’s association, Akhil Gogoi is yet unable to understand this.
Where was Akhil Gogoi when Irom Sharmila was fasting for the last ten years? He never supported her or took any step to save the rural people, whom he claims to represent and who suffers most from the brutal AFSPA. Now he is keen in fighting for the sudden nationally acclaimed figure, Anna Hazare’s meeting but he has never dared to show any support for Irom Sharmila in her fight against the Indian State system. Akhil Gogoi, would you or your hero Anna Hazare dare to fast with for Irom Sharmila? We are sure you won’t because fighting against corrupted people, though essential, is easier than fighting against the Indian Army and the Indian Government. More than corruption, you now fight for a playground for your ego while Irom Sharmila continues to battle more pain and hard times to safeguard human life.