Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Love and protest

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Anna Hazare is not the only crusader thrown up by civil society. Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur is an activist for human rights who has made history by fasting for 11 long years. She has been force-fed in police custody. But she has never budged from her demand that the Armed Forces ( Special Powers) Act ( AFSPA) should be withdrawn not only from Manipur but also from other states where it is in force. But the situation has now taken a curious turn. She has recently expressed her desire to marry the man she is in love with. But she will do that only after her demand for the revocation of the Act is met. However, she has met with opposition from her own supporters who have expressed unaccountable disapproval of her relationship with the man she loves. Her relationship has so far been confined to letters which she has written to writer and activist Desmond Coutinho. Her supporters tried to prevent their first meeting. Coutinho fasted for two days to be permitted to visit her lady love.

The attitude of Sharmila’s supporters shows that she is treated as an icon and not as a human being. She is being denied her rights as a woman. It is strange as women’s movements are strong in Manipur where there was so much agitation by women over the rape and murder of Manorama. Sharmila has become a mere symbol of protest. She went on fast on her own to condemn injustice and repression. Now, her own feelings are being repressed in the name of the anti-repressionist cause. The movement has become iron-clad to the exclusion of human feelings which is a contradiction of the mindset that led to the movement against AFSPA. Sharmila has turned into a victim of the mindlessness into which her own movement has degenerated.

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