Go to Room No 8A of the Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi. You will find three policemen guarding the room. They will not let you take your bag or phone in. You will be greeted by a man who will be genuinely happy to see that you have come to show your support to his sister. His sister is Irom Sharmila Chanu.
Sharmila has been on a fast for more than six years now protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. She began when she was 28. She is 34 now. The AFSPA gives the armed forces unchallenged powers to arrest, search, shoot and kill on suspicion alone. It has been grossly misused in Manipur for 49 years. Women have been raped in front of their families by army officials. Many people have simply disappeared only to be found later with bullets in their bodies. The uncertainty and trauma of living in such an atmosphere is something that we can’t quite understand. In any case, how can we understand when we are never even told about it.
Last week, about 20 students from our college visited Sharmila in the hospital. We sat there in shock as we were told about the situation in Manipur. We came back disturbed and shaken by the inhuman silence of the government and the media. Sharmila began her fast in Manipur but came to Delhi in 2006 in the hope of being heard. She was arrested and admitted to hospital. She spends her day reading or practising yoga while being force-fed through a tube attached to her nose. It has been six years and yet she has not lost hope.
Predictably, the State is indifferent. More shockingly, so is the media. One might agree or disagree with her politics but to do that, one needs to hear her out first. The media, meanwhile, continues to celebrate ‘Gandhigiri’ and middle-class 'activism’.
Aakshi Magazine is a second year History Honours student, Lady Sri Ram College, New Delhi.