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Iron Lady Ends Fast but Not the Struggle

Interview with Irom Sharmila |
Interviewed by Seema Mustafa
Irom carves a new path for herself and the struggle ahead.

Irom Chanu Sharmila, a civil rights activist known for her fight against the human rights violation in Manipur and AFSPA ended her 16 year long fast on the 9th of August. She ended the fast because of the general public apathy towards her struggle and the unresponsiveness of successive governments. Feeling stronger and more alive than ever, the Iron Lady has decided to form a new political party which would be independent and comprised of pro-people policies. Irom plans on changing her strategy of the struggle to be able to have the power to repeal AFSPA as well as change the face of politics. The new party would not be confined to Manipur but will be cutting across some of the states of North-East which are facing similar discrimination and racial attacks. Many groups harshly criticized Irom for breaking her fast. But Irom had a different take, she did not just want to be seen as a symbol of resistance but as a human.

Rough Transcript:

Seema: Welcome we have today this fighter ,this amazing woman of courage ,of independence, a bold warrior as it were, Irom Sharmila for an interview with The Citizen and Newsclick. Irom it is a pleasure to have met you and an honor really. And how are you feeling today, now that after so many years you’ve given up your, you know fast?

Irom Sharmila: Become alive completely.

Seema : You have?

Irom: Become alive.

Seema : Alive .Really? And now what is going to be your next move?

Irom: Since my demand, my protest for the right cause is still yet to be fulfilled I’m planning to change my strategy with democratic electoral politics to have my voice heard.

Seema: So do you think, you know that you have taken up this Armed Forces Special Powers Act issue so forcefully with your fast, but nobody listened, right? No government would listen,people listened but the governments did not listen.

Irom: I think that governments’ adamant nature is also a consequent effect of the mainstream media. Because I feel that National media are only interested in me and my breaking of the fast but they are not interested in knowing the real situation of Manipur, of how they live, of how they face the army.

Seema: True. They are not interested in the real issues, that is so true.

Irom: They should come to Manipur also and just meet with all these remote people.

Seema: Yeah but you know the issue that you took up is something that is beyond Manipur. You took it up because of Manipur but it’s something which even all the way till Kashmir people used to look at you. So do you think your role now will be bigger than just one state?

Irom: Encompass all affected states also in a democratic country and the union government should respect the sentiments of the people in a multi-cultural country. Without connecting the hearts of the people with a sense of the people’s representation so as to bring the real integrity of India and the real peace of India, every issue can be solved with mutual understanding and loving kindness without any tones of violence because our heart is malleable and is an example of civilization and highest living entity of God’s creation. We need the sense of civilization in everything else without any enforcement of contradictory rules or regulations.

Seema : But when you started the fast so many years ago, did you think at all Irom that you would have to fast for such a long time? You were more optimistic at that time right?

Irom: I just felt optimistic and hopeful to the will of God, but I had seen nothing about my future by then. I just believed in the principle of non-violence as how India became independent with the tools of non-violence. In my generation those who were proud of the original I mean being the source of non-violence in India, my failure due to their negligence of non-violent principles is a shame to the world, for Indians to the world.

Seema: So when you called off your fast, had you decided, were you thinking of doing that for a while or was it a sudden decision?

Irom: Not sudden. After persevering for such long years, after frustrations of such long year after year, when I was released every year, the penalty of one year under the Indian Penal Code Section 309, the concerned authority remained unheard of my real voice.

Seema: There was a lot of criticism from groups about you calling off the fast. I mean many of us thought that that was not a fair criticism because you know, you had led this whole struggle against AFSPA almost singlehandedly and it was your right to take a decision. So how would you respond to those people who are criticizing you for this?

Irom: They just misunderstand my break of fast but their inner feeling, they remain respecting me and their emotions for me still remain unchanged, I think. For example after refusing to accept me or giving me shelter in a locality, the same locality came to realize what they’d done to me.

Seema What are you going to do ,like if today you want to say what are you going to do ,the next step.

Irom: By forming a new party with a new symbol based on our people’s sentiments, based on its suffering, everything based on our region with the convention of inclusiveness will form a new party, yes political party ina short period and the next election is very near from now and I’m hopeful …

Seema: Will you confine the party to Manipur or will you look at a general party cutting across some of the states in the north-east?

Irom: I don’t want to confine to Manipur’s problems only because all the north-east states are similarly suffering from discriminations ,racial attacks and other backwardness due to the system of politics which is absolutely based on the national policies without regarding the sentiments of the people, the north-east, without connecting hearts, without regarding what they do, what they want.

Seema: So this is you know, a lot of the parties in the north-east, in some of the states, also in Manipur like to ally with one of this so called National parties which is Congress or BJP or something. You’re going to remain independent I guess.

Irom: We’ll form a new party.

Seema: New party and you will not ally with any of the Delhi parties?

Irom: Recently on an invitation from the Aam Admi Party, I met with the Chief Minister only because he invited me and I felt as he had been struggling for long for anti-corruption movement is I think a symbol of people’s power in politics. I felt I needed counseling, how did they win, how can we connect with people, like that.

Seema: So I’m going to end with a personal question. When are you getting married?

Irom: Right now I can say I am determined not to get married until and unless my goal is achieved.

Seema: And the goal is..change in the order ? or revocation, abrogation of AFSPA, which would you say is the goal now?

Irom: My main focus is on repealing that very AFSPA and other relevant goals for the sake of justice never understanding that there is a collective goal and I want the whole world not to politicize my love life and I want the people of Manipur also to see me as a humanity, not just a symbol of resistance.

Seema: Thank you for watching Newsclick and the Citizen, we’ll be back again with the next interview very soon. Thank you.

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick

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