Placating Sharmila : The Iron Lady

Kakai Singsit *

 Irom Sharmila for first time attended Malom Massacre anniversary :: November 2 2016
Irom Sharmila attended the Malom Massacre anniversary on November 2 2016 :: Pix - Shankar Khangembam

As I was scouring the internet about a landmark Supreme Court judgement germane to AFSPA I stumbled across our inimitable Irom Sharmila as poignancy invaded my thought and contrition smothered me. This icon once a household name has suddenly disappeared from our collective psyche after the political humiliations that were bestowed on her in the year 2017.

It was disheartening to come across the flurry of invectives made in both National and international media towards the people of Manipur pillorying us for transforming this international icon into a persona non grata. I think it was well deserved tirades.

The 2017 election was landmark on two counts. First, BJP which was a nondescript political party until then came to the helm of affairs thanks to the vicious political skulduggeries and the then Governor who chose to vitiate time-honoured conventions in favour of the BJP. Second, Sharmilaís intention of contesting the election put Manipur on the map.

Few months prior to the election the Iron Lady dropped a bombshell as she announced her decision to end her 16-years fast, a tiding that sent shockwaves around the world. In the same breath she stipulated her desire to enter the political fray and continue her fight against AFSPA from the realm of politics.

She showed great courage by crossing swords with the then incumbent Chief Minister, Shri Okram Ibobi, the juggernaut of Thoubal with whom a tinge of invincibility was imputed.

There was so much fanfare about the announcement as Thoubal AC riveted the attention of the world and became the epicentre of all political gibber gabber-from international media panel discussions to Manipurís infamous HOTEL PHILOSOPHERS with many of them cynical about her adventurism.

The world waited with bated breath for 11th March only to be flummoxed by the result. It was not the hype of Ibobiís win but the humiliating defeat of our Iron lady with a measly 90 votes. Everyone had this hunch that she will lose the husting but the margin of her defeat left all gasping for air.

For a frail woman who had given her-everything so that we the masculine folks of Manipur, who love to lord over the fairer sex but are actually uxorious always crying out to the lady folks/MEIRA PAIBIS to come and save our hides from the boots of surly security forces squatting in our beautiful land, can live a life of dignity.

Is this the reward that we bequeathed to her for all the immense sacrifices she had made ? Well, it was a foregone conclusion but the quantum of the loss is simply indefensible for a luminary like her. We have shown to the world how corrupt, fickle, depraved and greedy we have become.

She should have been made to walk away with her heads held high may be with a thousand or few hundred votes as a quid pro quo. The malaise with us is that the word gratitude is bizarrely missing from our dictionaries as we shamelessly hanker after the loaves and fishes without any compunction. Itís such a shame that our depravity has come to the ignominious glare of the whole world.

To add more insult to the festering injury she polled lesser than the NOTA with 143 votes as the jackboots must be rubbing their hands in glee for the humiliation meted out to their eternal tormentor, Sharmila, for the first time since 2000 AD.

Situation could have been different had she contested from the hill districts because time and again people has demonstrated their gratitude to social activists by lifting them up to the political pedestal. Here people morality and sense of probity are better when compared to the valley.

Going by BJPís electoral campaign catch-word of touting Ibobi as the man who plundered the State for fifteen years and that he is given such a pedestal honour whereas, the woman who asked nothing but sacrificed all her prime life for the cause of the people should be accorded such a humiliating reward. Words fail one.

The finger of accusation is not imputed for the people of Thoubal AC alone as this malaise transcends beyond and is all-encompassing.

Where are the intellectuals, social activists and the savants who could at least appreciate her immense struggle for a society free from fear and tribulations under the immunity of AFSPA ?

I was pained at her announcement to leave the sState once for all and never come back. May be it was better to part with the humiliations than live with it.

If she was born elsewhere other than Manipur she would have been deified and given a safe seat by any National political party like the one that was done to a retired IPS officer from Mizoram who was elected as an MP from North Bangalore Constituency all for containing the menace of the notorious Veerapan.

Had she contested from my Constituency, only if statutes concur, I would personally ensure at least 200 votes in leaps and bounds larger than the total votes she tallied at Thoubal AC and extra thousands from the youth, academics, social activists and intellectuals whose leverage is pervasive. Even in defeat she would have walked away with a smile.

This is how the tribal people rewarded their activists with golden spoons. Kim Gangte was a non-entity but in acknowledgement of her contribution she was catapulted to an MP, Francis Ngajokpa, Gaikhangam, GS Haupu, RK Thekho were all student activists or social leaders at one point of time and they were amply rewarded for their contributions.

The recently concluded election also continued with the legacy with Mr Chinlunthang former United Zou Organization president was elected as the MLA of Singnat AC and not to forget this gentleman Kumo Sha former president of ANSAM who also joined the bandwagon of activists catapulted to MLA.

I was told that the latter, the present MLA of Karong AC walked away with the electoral bouquet though he was impecunious, have no house of his own and so have to live in a rented house; no car of his own, stone dry bank balance and yet people rewarded him for his service. This is how we, the hill people thank our social leaders. Had Sharmila been from the hills she would be one among those illustrious lists.

Lastly, let not your heart be festered by the wounds that was inflicted by the people for whom you have fought so hard. Continue to carry on the good fight wherever you are and our sincere prayer will always with you. The 2018 and 2019 ruling of the Supreme Court chastising both the State Government and the security forces operating in Manipur for all the fake encounters is heartening. Thanks to you and your peers.

* Kakai Singsit wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was webcasted on May 07 2022 .

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