The pseudo warriors behind care to know about someone called Irom Sharmila? Gnani Sankaran
April 8th, 2011
7.4.2011 10 pm IST
It was fashionable to be patriotic during Kargil war and now it is fashionable to be fighters against corruption thanks to Anna Hazare.
Within two days of the fast of veteran gandhian’s understandable ire against delay in creating a lok pal act, the English media channels and their partners – in- arms English print media have created a pseudo war against corruption in India, with middle and upper middle classes suddenly waking up their consciences through candle light walks.
Dear pseudo comrades, have you heared of Irom Sharmila , fasting not for one or two days, but a full decade, with absolutely no media hype to create a single candle light walk by the rich and the affluent of India.
Lend your ears not to me, friends, Indians and countrymen, but to Irom Sharmila, a fellow Indian like Anna hazare. Unfortunately she is from Manipur, which many of us in south and western India confuse with Manipal where money gets education and again unfortunately in Manipur , even money cannot guarantee you your life.
Here is a quick recap on Irom Sharmila, for the sake of latecomers to public causes. Assam Rifles one of the Indian para military forces under whose control Manipur is, gunned down ten people waiting for bus at a bus stop in Malom in Imphal valley on November 1,2000. While the army claimed that it fired against insurgents , other eye witness accounts challenged that. The killed included an old woman.
On November 4, Irom Sharmila a 28 year old girl started a fast unto death demanding repeal of the armed forces special powers act of 1958 which empowered the army to kill without being questioned. She was arrested for attempting to commit suicide and force fed by tubes. For the last ten years, the government repeats the farce of arresting her on the same charge every year, after a formal release for a day or two. This is because the very charge of attempt to suicide does not entail imprisonment of more than one year even if convicted. Irom Sharmila continues to be under arrest till date and is being forcefed.
In 2004, Thangjam Manorama, another Manipuri girl was found dead, brutally killed by the Indian army and this led to hundreds of women protesting ourside army headquarters in Imphal. Forty women, young and old went naked with placards demanding “Indian army, rape us.”
And Irom Sharmila continued to fast under arrest, while rest of India has been merrily carrying on with regular elections and cricket. (If Anna Hazare had been on fast during semi finals and finals of world cup , the media would have blissfully ignored him. Timing, my dear friends, Indians and countrymen, is very very important in politics and media. Remember that if Government of India has taken 42 years to draft a Lokpal bill, Anna Hazare also has taken so long to launch a fast unto death on that demand.)
Except for customary casual and superficial mention about Irom Sharmila in their news bulletins whenever an Arundhathi Roy or Mahaswetha devi mentioned her, the entire Indian media has ignored her. Why ? Simple, my dear watsons, it is unpatriotic to question the army or criticize it, even though it may be as corrupt as our politicians and even more brutal than them.
A government bullying its own citizens of an entire state with its army is worse than corruption. This has been going on in North east irrespective of which party holds power in Delhi. The candle vigilantes of the educated middle, upper middle and rich dare not take up issues of human rights violations, or adivasis’ traditional right violations. It is the easiest option to shout from the rooftops about corruption while being part of the very same corrupt system in day to day life. And the politician is the favourite whipping boy for these classes.
And is corruption in India waiting only for one single Lok pal bill at the centre to throw it out in entirety ? No. Anna hazare’s fast is only for drafting of a water tight bill which would take atleast three to four months, even if the committee of his choice works on it. And once the bill becomes the act, it does not dent corruption a bit unless it is enforced. Enforecement is the responsibility of the same corrupt machinery and system we have.
And remember we already have enough laws to book the corrupt politicians and public servants. Whatever cases that remain in court against a Lalu Prasad yadav or Jayalalitha or Madhu Koda or Ramalinga Raju or Ketan Desai have been booked under the existing well framed laws.
What we really need is not just a new law but only a honest enforcemenet machinery to implement the best constitution in the world. And such a machinery also unfortunately has to come only from the educated middle, upper middle and rich classes because it is these classes that have produced, protected and perpetuated the existing dishonest enforcement system.
What we need is therefore not a candle light rally around the half dead Anna Hazare but a protest rally outside the houses of auditors, lawyers, doctors and teachers whop have corrupted oru system blaming everything on an imaginary uneducated politician. But lo, they are an indistinguishable but inseperable part of the cacophony of the pseudo war against corruption.
I wish before his martyrdom, someone would first educate Anna Hazare about a place called Manipur and an unsung heroine called Irom Sharmila.
Gnanisankaran is a tamil writer, columnist, theatreperson and video film maker