Welcome to India, the world's largest democracy! Here is a woman who has been fasting for a cause for the past 15 years and nobody really cares. Yes, you heard it right - 15 years!
It is her conscience, her unwavering convictions that have made her the "Iron Lady of Manipur". Irom Sharmila is like droplets of water trickling into a solid rock. With her silent, resilient and persistent efforts, this frail woman has made a dent, and a solid one at that. This poetess, with her adamant devotion, is, according to me, one of the greatest women to have ever lived on earth.
Irom Sharmila Chanu's status as a heroine - and a victim of the Republic of India - started on 2 November, 2000, when armed forces killed 10 innocent civilians who were waiting for a bus in Malon, Manipur. The victims included an 18-year-old National Bravery Award winner.
In the ruthless world where people don't even care about their own flesh and blood, broken-hearted Irom Sharmila has been on a continuous hunger strike since that day to force the government to repeal AFSPA. Sensing trouble, and that too trouble created by a woman, the government charged her with "attempted suicide" and ensured that she stayed trapped between the judiciary and jail. She is forcibly fed to keep her alive, which is an obligation for government to avoid any perceived conflict. No one in successive central governments, no so-called human rights activists, no civil rights organisations ever stood for her in any meaningful way.
When I met with an accident and broke my jaw, it was the time I couldn't eat anything. I wrote to her to enquire how she managed to stay without food for so long. Her answer was as inspirational as she is: eternal faith.
With almost no media coverage and support from the "owners" of this country, her struggle against the draconian AFSPA is like a pigeon fighting against a flock of vultures, but her optimism is indestructible. There is no one I know who has suffered so much for an absolutely selfless cause.
A lower-middle class girl of Manipur may become 'Mengoubi' (a fair girl) or Iron Lady for us, but she never wanted to be this. She has a few aspirations for life, a loving boyfriend and a beautiful family. She wants to return to her life but only after ensuring peace and love for her motherland.
May she succeed!