The Iron Lady of Manipur - Thoughts

Irom Sharmila Chanu… A woman of Extraordinary will and courage… The Iron Lady of Manipur.

CLick Here for Another Blogger's Take

Since November 4, 2000, she’s been on a fast demanding the repeal of the AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act] from Manipur. She’s been fed forcefully through the nose for a whole decade and has been imprisoned on account of attempted suicide.
For more about AFSPA: Click Here

In that post, I simply copied and pasted info from the website mentioned there. But this post is about what I feel about the situation [which is totally different, if you think about it].

The AFSPA horrifically reminds me of the Rowlatt Act of 1919 passed by the British Government. At that time, all the famous leaders, including Mahatma Gandhi, strongly opposed it.
This act effectively authorized the government to imprison for a maximum period of two years, without trial, any person suspected of terrorism living in the Raj. The Rowlatt Act gave British imperial authorities power to deal with revolutionary activities. Mohandas Gandhi, among other Indian leaders, was extremely critical of the Act and argued that not everyone should be punished in response to isolated political crimes. The Act led to indignation from Indian leaders and the public, which caused the government to implement repressive measures. Gandhi and others found that constitutional opposition to the measure was fruitless, so on April 6, a "hartal" was organized where Indians would suspend all business and fast as a sign of their hatred for the legislation. This event is known as the Rowlatt satyagraha.
The AFSPA adds to the Rowlatt Act one more power: The right of the Indian Army to kill anyone based on suspicion. Now the justification is that it’s essential for the control of insurgency in the states of North-East. But, common sense seems to be missing somewhere here… An Act is in action for 50 years and produces no results, but simply adds to the list of Human Rights violations in India.

A video from Youtube [My Body My Weapon]:

“Is this the India we are supposed to be proud of?” A mother asked bluntly, when New Delhi took a whole month to deal with the Manipur blockade. The North-Eastern states are least developed, with restricted freedom for half a century, with schooling disrupted every now and then and the Government too busy to pay any attention to the demands of the people there. I’m confused. My first question would be, ‘Are these things real?’ and my next question would be, ‘Is this India?’ I would also be naïve enough to ask another question… Is there a reason why Manipur would want to remain in India?

I can understand the disaster that would occur if the AFSPA was immediately repealed. But honestly, if a law is observed to have produced little result after 50 years, shouldn’t it be at least amended? They are talking about repealing it in Kashmir. This is one aspect of the matter I can hardly ignore. New Delhi panics for every little skirmish in Jammu & Kashmir, but remains very quiet even when the North East is bursting in flames. Why? Because the media isn’t covering those places enough, to incite strong feelings in people and thereby create trouble for the Government?

I don’t know what we can do about it, but simply sit and pray that everything turns out fine in another ten years or so, because if changes are going to happen in India, they aren’t really gonna happen anytime soon without the protests of the people as a whole. All I know is, it’s time someone paid attention to the tears of the Seven Sisters.

We can only hope it's True


  1. I don't think there would be a disaster if AF(SP)A were repealed but who knows. My reasoning is both Dr Singh and American Intelligence (via Wikileaks) regard the Naxalite/Maoist threat as far more organized than the insurgents of the north east. Yet the army have never sought AF(SP)A protection in mainland India. They have gained the right to use helicopter gunships with sidewards mounted machineguns in self defence but believe AF(SP)A should not be used against their own people. It's more symbolic. If it's removed then it moves towards a State where the rule of law is upheld.

    The next step that has been released only through on-line media is that a reform of AF(SP)A requiring troops to seek warrants before making an arrest, and removing the right to kill with impunity will be presented to the next Cabinet Committee on Security. If that means that the paramilitaries behave with discipline. They stop some of the more bloodcurdling policies mentioned by the ICRC in the wikileaks for example then hopefully full repeal of AF(SP)A can follow.

    The special powers do not offer the paramilitaries any physical protection. They are purely exemptions from investigation and prosecution and would not apply in any charge of crimes against humanity for example if soldiers travelled to a country which respected universal jurisdiction for war crimes.

    I have been corresponding with Irom Sharmila for quite a while. I shall mention that you are High School students and that you too have published thoughts about her. I was more of a trouble maker when I was younger I don't think I was as thoughtful. At first I wondered if sitting and praying was enough. But you have posted this article, you are part of a movement raising awareness, you care, sitting and praying crown all these activities.

    I will mention you all by name to Sharmila in my next letter to her. Then I will go on a 3 week zazen silent retreat. So all the best with your activity and prayers. I hope when you graduate that you consider entering politics. Once India had states(wo)men. India needs politicians who want to serve not those who want money and power but that's the future. I'll write about you all to her now and keep you in my prayers also,

    with metta
    Desi Coutinho

  2. Thank you so much for enlightening us about the situation. I must say, it's quite wonderful of you to comment... And about mentioning us to Irom Sharmila herself... I don't know what to say... I mean, writing about her was itself a great honor :)

  3. Please write to her at
    Irom Sharmila Chanu
    Security Ward
    Jawaharlal Nehru I MS
    Imphal East
    Manipur 797001

    I have already mentioned you all to her by name in my last letter. She is very shy plus it is very difficult for her to reply but I know she will do her best to acknowledge a letter if you send one. She is very approachable. And I know she would be very touched to hear from you directly.

    I hope and pray something good happens for you all. Did you know that today was not only the solstice but there was a eclipse of the moon, it looks as if light will be stolen but at the last it is restored. But they call it superstition these days. Please continue as you are inspired changes are happening you would all be very welcome at our wedding once she is freed. Manipur can be a beautiful peaceful place and it doesn't need many to bring the change. Please write to her. I hope she will be freed soon and she is in incredibly good spirits for over ten years of mainly solitary. I get frustrated some days she is simple but she is very special.

    with metta


  4. wow meenu your words really are very effective on me... i wish i could be as strong as the iron lady.. what a courageous lady! thank you its really informative.... :)