Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Fast of the Furious

Something unfortunate will happen in the next 48 hours, but i will be very surprised if it makes it to the frontpages of newspapers. Not when we have plethora of distractions in the forms of Diwali, Star celebrations and new releases. But if you will take some time, please ponder over what Irom Chanu Sharmila has undergone for the last ten years.

A decade in which she has been on a fast non stop. To put that into perspective, ten years ago, Shri Amitabh Bacchan hosted the KBC for the first time. Ten years ago, i buckled and stumbled my way into Senior secondary. I completed schooling, bid adieu to college, crossed the sea, watched friends get engaged, married and deliver babies. All this while, Irom Chanu Sharmila continued to fast. And she fasts still.

For those interested, she has been on a peaceful fast, protesting the carte blanche granted to our army, in their operations in the troubled paradise of the north east. I claim to be no expert in the happenings over there, but surely, ten years is a ridiculous amount of time for any government to not step in, if only to save what is by now, a shortened life.

In a world which grudgingly allows anyone their 15 seconds of fame, perhaps Irom's methods were doomed from the start. Our ignorance of her path, tread so effectively by Mahatma Gandhi before, is symptomatic of the general apathy of the mainland, towards her peripheral daughters. Hers is not a cause celebre, and when a state can be blockaded for months without central intervention, it's perhaps too much to expect anyone to step in and talk to her.

Fasting is the least of her privations. To avoid a scandal, the local authorities have regularly arrested her and force fed through the nostrils and released her when her health improved. And each time she's been released, she goes back to fasting and gradually weakens. When the point of alarm is reached, the authorities step in again, and the vicious cycle continues. over and over. for ten years. non stop.

A stark contrast from the heady and bustling scenes witnessed when any of our beloved politicians or actors decide fast for a day, under the careful glare of the camera and our commentators have a field day. Who can forget the money shot- The governor or a junior minister walking with a smile and a glass of lemon juice which is then magically held by both parties, for the benefit of flash photography, and then a great roar of triumph as the fast is broken. But then again, life is not fair and not equal for everyone, so why must legitimate, non violent protest be any different?

I have not found any interviews of her, so from the outside, i can only express my respect for her continued faith in democracy and justice, when the said institutions have only neglected her doggedly for the last ten years. I am humbled by her determination to continue but i can only hope that someone steps in and saves her. A democracy is strengthened not just by a show of numbers at the ballot box, but also by lending platforms for all sections of society to voice their opinions, without fear of being in the minority, and with a faith that the state will oblige and at least grant them a fair hearing.

It is not enough to pay lip service to assert that the assimilation of all sections of our society is complete. Not when we have such examples of our neglect and collective failure to engage with our fellow Indians. So, while the rest of us burst crackers, light our lamps, meet our friends and family, and pray for the gift of light in our lives, spare a thought for someone who starves for justice, and if nothing else, at least a sympathetic ear.

1 comment:

lavanya said...

Bravo to you to write about such a person and incident especially about the most neglected territory of our country.
When the youth of today is caught up in FB, texting, twittering abt what their plans for evening are, its nice to see such posts.

P.S-After this i googled abt her!!