Manipur doesn't warm up to Anna fight
Manipur does not want to be drawn into a debate on whether the fight to scrap a law that gives soldiers the licence to kill is bigger than the fight against corruption. But this is at the heart of the northeastern state's disconnect with Anna Hazare's crusade. Manipur was unresponsive when the nation rallied behind Hazare after his arrest and backed his fast for the jan lokpal bill.
An economic blockade by a tribal organisation seeking the creation of a new district (Sadar Hills) was a factor, but so was the Centre's indifference to a Manipuri woman's silent fight against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1958.
"My sister is not fighting for Manipur or Manipuris alone. Her fight is for every Indian who might some day be facing a gun for disagreeing with the government," said Irom Singhajit, 53, brother of Irom Sharmila Chanu who has been on a marathon fast. "It is time people spared time for seemingly isolated silent agitations like hers and made it a mainstream movement."
Sharmila, 38, has been fasting for the 11th year in a row to have the AFSPA repealed. She stopped eating from November 2, 2000, after Assam Rifles troopers gunned down 10 villagers while chasing militants at Malom village near Manipur's capital Imphal. Confined to a hospital ward, she is being force-fed through a nasal tube.
Imphal-based rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said, "Her resilience is remarkable as is her belief in the Gandhian way of protest. India without the AFSPA will not only be a relief for the northeast; it will have a bearing on other disturbed areas where it could be imposed in the name of controlling law and order."
AFSPA is in force in Nagaland, Manipur (barring seven assembly segments), Assam, Arunachal Pradesh (Tirap and Changlang) and areas under 22 police stations in Tripura.
A commission (under former Supreme Court judge Justice BP Jeevan Reddy) had recommended replacing the AFSPA with a more humane piece of legislation, but the Centre didn't listen.