Guest Post by Anirban Bhattacharya
We may have differences in our political approach as to the way and means of the struggle, but what must be stated at the outset is the fact that Irom Sharmila has certainly been an icon of resistance and inspiration in the struggle against AFSPA.
Her 16 year long hunger strike has been a grim reminder of the crimes against the Manipuri people – rape, torture, fake encounters and massacres – committed by the armed forces with impunity under such draconian Acts like AFSPA. But her abrupt decision to end her fast accompanied with her willingness to contest elections in the upcoming assembly elections have met with a mixture of shock, scepticism, disappointment, puzzlement and even anger amongst her people in Manipur and even her close associates. There also seems to be a resentment against her being in a relationship and her plan to marry. Such scrutiny/dragging of her personal life are, however, quite deplorable. But overall, the disappointment with the decision of Irom to quit fasting and contest elections is so strong that, after breaking her fast in the hospital, when she tried to go to a local activist’s shelter, the locals disapproved. She had to seek temporary shelter in an ISKCON temple along with her police guards and then was shifted to a police station and finally she was forced to retreat to the same hospital that housed her for last 16 years. Now, this is telling. But what does it tell? The answer to this question would take us away from criticisms about any particular individual, but to the evaluation of the very method of struggle that she had been a part of, its scope, effectivity and limitations.