Having entered the 3rd year of our BMM course as Journalism students, we've opened ourselves to a whole new world. There are so many things that we want to write about... This is our blog, where we will try and bring to light,some of our first journalistic attempts.here's us, the budding reporters and news people of tomorrow (hopefully!)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Can Irom's voice be heard?

I wrote about the same thing in the feature class but i some how cant seem to get enough on this issue. what i feel is disgust.

The armed forces special power act was passed by the parliament in 1958, for the north eastern regions of india.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as "disturbed", an officer of the armed forces has the powers to:
-Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death
-Arrest without a warrant and with the use of "necessary" force anyone who has committed certain offences or is suspected of having done so
-enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.
Army officers also have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
This law was passed as a response to the naxalism, Maoism and the increasing violence and tension some of the North Eastern territories, this classifying them as 'disturbed region and was Thus, according to the government, one of the possible solutions to deal with the problems there.
However, taking advantage of the powers vested to the Army by this act, the Assam Rifles a paramilitary force in Assam allegedly killed 10 young, innocent, Meitei* men in Manipur. This was not the only incident when the powers vested upon the military forces were allegedly misused. Right from the time the Act was passed, there were several instances due to which the masses of North Eastern Regions of India had been pushing for the abolition of the Act. However, the killings in Manipur triggered off a major response by the masses and by Irom Sharmila, a Meitei Manipuri human rights activist who declared a fast until death till the act was withdrawn.

Here we are talking about Irom Sharmila; Age 39 yrs

Often referred to as the modern day female version of Gandhi and the Iron Lady of India, Irom has been on a fast until death since November 2000. The Reason- her campaign against the Armed Forces Powers Act.
Not many of us in this part of the country know about her, but hers is a story which needs to be told. She doesn't drink a drop of water and doesn't let a particle of food touch her tongue. More so, she cleans her teeth with cotton to avoid even a single drop of water to pass through her teeth, touch her tongue and roll down her throat. Ever since she went on this fast, innumerable attempts have been made to force feed her.

During these 9 yrs, various human rights organisations have visited her and innumerable promises have been made. In the year 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured that the Centre would consider their demand sympathetically. The Centre then set up a five-member committee under the chairmanship of Justice BP Jeevan Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court. The BP Jeevan Reddy committee submitted its recommendations on June 6, 2005. The 147-page report recommends that "the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed". However, the government failed to act on the recommendations.

Ever Since she declared the fast, she has been arrested on the Charges of Attempted Suicide and has been taken under judicial custody. She was taken to the AlMS in delhi and since then, a plastic and pipe was inserted through her nose to force feed her a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup which is force fed to her 5 times a day.

Since 2000, every time she declares the fast, she is arrested, force fed and then released. once released she again declares the fast and gets arrested and this practice of arrest, release and re-arrest has been going on since then.
The people from Manipur, human rights organisations and otherwise just a lot of citizens have been demanding justice and the withdrawal of the act since 2000 and hence demanding justice for Irom Sharmila. Various Ministers, from time to time have made various promises to her. however, for reasons untold, no action is being taken against the AFSPA.

This is not just a violation of ones civil rights, but its the violation of ones existence.

Its also strange how a funny 5 hour fast by Karunanidhi attracts so much attention and Irom Sharmila's fast just goes un noticed by the center, and till an extent my the media too. Its not about the loss of the life of an individual, its about the impotency of the entire government to come up with a solution for a problem, address the grievances and thus give a better life to the people in one of the world's greatest democracies.
They call it a government for the people.

*Meitei is a major ethnic group in manipur.
Posted by Isha,
please comment and give a feedback on the post.


  1. Hey
    Stunning post Isha. I have to admit I know far too little about the north east's issues to comment with any conviction, but it's a typically Indian response, I find, to deal with problems rather than their roots.
    I'm linking you guys asap. Keep at it.

  2. @harry, thanks for reading
    and it is true, we are actually just realizing how messed the entire system is and how alot of things are going wrong. if they can be corrected?...dont know.

    and yaaa...thanks for linking us.
    keep reading :)

  3. hey,
    i have read about her before in a book. it gives me goose flesh - this story. i'm glad this story has made it here. keep posting and i'll keeo reading :)

  4. @Isha. good one! U know, it makes one wonder about our attitude towards our history... the country that patronizes Mahatma Gandhi as the 'Father Of The Nation' is subjecting his method of protest to this sort of humiliation..... Isn't it a kind of hypocrisy?

  5. What do you think is the most correct way of doing things? Politics, Economics and Administration are about Trade Offs. Every act has a trade-off and an opportunity cost associated with it. Yes, I agree that SOME army people have 'misused' the power vested in them. And it's very unfortunate that innovent people have been losing lives because of this misuse of power. But then, in the long run, these few unfortunate killings have halped Army to maintain relatively high level of peace in the region. Sitting in Mumbai and commenting about the battlefield in Meghalaya is very easy but acting in the situation might involve much more intricacies than we can imagine.

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. @arun,
    i agree with you when you say that such an act has helped maintain a high level of peace and security in the so called area. and that is precisely why i have mentioned the basic details of the AFSPA. but as a responsible govt, and specially for someone as credible as Mr Manmohan Singh, dont you think that adressing her concern is also equally important?
    the need to the hour is tackling the issue and not just trying to run away from it by giving false promises and then maintaining high levels of silence. we here dont want the govt to accept Irom's demand if its unfair, but yes, her voice should be heard and grieviances should be addressed.
    wat say?

  8. @Arun: I've been to the north east twice in the last 18 months, have some friends who reside there and are from the region. I've also had the good fortune of having known and corresponded with two citizen organizations. To add to that, my college has a large number of students from the north east of India and a professor who's well aware of not just the problems there, but also of people who've worked for these states. And after all of this, I can tell you, the Act has been more of a problem than a means to a solution. As you say about us giving a commentary abut the situation from Mumbai, so must you realize that this Act too has been an action from the people in Parliament who have no clue of the conditions in the North East. Also, with considerable knowledge of the situation let me assure you, it is not just SOME army people who've misused this Act...

  9. @ mili
    thanks .. and yes, i totally agree with you

    thanks for reading. hope to hear more of u on the coming posts.

  10. What is your opinion about the operation of Sri Lankan government to root out the LTTE? And what about the operation of Pakistani Army in Swat valley? If those operations are justified, I don't see any point in denying the success of these initiatives. Operation Bluestar in Punjab was criticized in 1984 when it took place and is still used for political benefits by some outfits. But everyone knows that it was a necessity of the time and the govt. did not have any other solution. The Nano project thrown out of West Bengal has been welcomed by some and rejected by others. Whom should the government listen to? And especially when the person tries to blackmail the govt by going on fast everytime she's released. I don't say that Manmohan Singh should not go and reassure the lady but then how many people will he reassure individually? He and his government is trying to tackle the issue in North-East through many other measures.

  11. @Arun Operation Blue Star was a one time crack down. I'm not sure I know too much abt the sri lankan activities. This is something that has been happening for so many years on end. If the population of an entire state is troubled by it and in a consistent manner, I think it should be given more of a thought. That woman is troubled enough not to have touched a morsel of food in all these years voluntarily, isn't it something that deserves a little more attention? how many of us know anything about that part of our country anyway? it is not just Manmohan Singh's govt that is to be questioned here, it is the whole parliament in the last ten years. I'm sure the Act was passed with good intentions, but if so many people are finding it a nuisance, isn't it time to reevaluate? it is not about listening to one woman, it is about looking into an issue and not neglecting the people of the north east of our country.

  12. @arun
    "I don't say that Manmohan Singh.... but then how many people will he reassure individually?"

    i am sorry to say this but if we as the citezens of india have such an opinion about the govt and the people who form it then whats the point of a democracy n e ways. arun its not really a small thing. and here we arent pointing out only the the govt. in the post i have also mentioned karunanidhi and the point is why have all the mediums failed to give enough voice to this issue where a lot of smaller issues have gotten the undeserved place. solution comes in later, but lets not ignore north east as a region and the people there. the need for the hour is just that the govt and the media should address the issue. and if u say that the govt already has good plans working for the NE, then well as the citezens of the country we should very well be aware of all that is going on and in the meanwhile if any one has a query then the least they are expected to do is to answer them.

  13. Isha and Maithli, please don't get me wrong on the issue. I completely agree with the fact that the problem in NE persists and it needs much more room for govt. to do. But the point that I'm trying to make is that we all repeat the same thing that the problem exists, but nobody ever comes up with a solution. I have complete solidarity with the lady under discussion, but isn't there a single person in NE or entire India who says that this is the solution. Why I'm disappointed or even irritated to read such articles (which is my tone in last 2 posts) is that people do nothing but restate the problems, everytime enforcing it with a new series of facts, but nobody ends the articles with a solution. Will Karunanidhi's or Manmohan Singh's or any other civil servant's talks with this lady make a difference? The advantage of democracy that u r talking about, is the biggest disadvantage because the govt., in order to listen to its votebank, cannot take any radical action.
    Yes, our politicians need to understand the grass-root problems. Yes, our politicians should listen to the voice of every citizen. But isn't it the responsibility and power of the citizen to suggest solutions as well. Or is it our duty just to eleviate the problem???

  14. ok arun,
    i finally agree with what you have to say. i am soon going to post a follow up on the post after a little more ground work and the questions you have reaised are going to help me coming up with something solid in that post. thanks alot for taking your time out and putting your point forth. we as students will stick to the ethics and the norms but yes, as you said we do need to get real and try to find the practicality in things.
    do read the follow up on the story and i hope we are able to come up with some solution for it , so that we can take the issue a little forward, and mebbe towards its end solution.

  15. @Arun: Got your point and I couldn't agree more. We need solutions. And as Isha has said, being media students ans future news people, we'll try our best to bring out the solutions. It's not even like there are no solutions proposed; there are a lot of them. they just need to be aired and through the right medium and channel. We'll try to use this blog now and maybe, larger platforms too.
    Thanks for reading!

  16. again, a deviation from the issue at hand. The problem is there, and we have to find a solution. But why is this issue not being raised forcefully in the media? the solution to this is to repeal the AFSPA and once the situation of the state is stable, because Manipur is such in a state of turmoil, then, with the support of the people, the givesoment can easily root out the insurgents. It's not possible right now because the insurgents use the 'cause' of repealing AFSPA to ask support from the people, and the people of the state, pained and harassed by this act can do nothing but cooperate with the insurgents. Also, there is a 2% cut from every government employee's pay, which goes to the insurgents.

    An interesting discussion here. Thanks for the link.

  17. Its such a pity that this issue has been pushed into a dark corner so conveniently. How do we get the required media attention here? I know that using the blog as a platform is a good initiative, but we have to think bigger!

    Thanks for this article Isha. Will spread the word to the best of my ability. (which isn't much, unfortunately) :(

  18. Solid post.justified opinions and comments.

  19. Great post. People need to know about this AND we need a solution.

  20. @nothingman
    i didnt know about the 2% cut. thanks for letting us know about it.
    i know we need to find a solution here, and i agree that irom sharmila needs justice and the only way to do that is my getting rid of the AFSPA. but do you think that its sensible enough to do that with all the tension in manipur. the tension is due to the muslim extremist groups and due to the internal ethnic groups of the regions. what we see is one side of the story where she needs justice
    but we also somewhere need to understand the reason why we have the AFSPA there in the first place.
    just to have an evenhanded unbiased opinion on the issue.

  21. @shmoo,
    thanks alot for reading.
    its been almost 10 years now and the issue is simply getting sidetracked. the media is aware of it,but it chooses to ignore it since its not gonna make a big difference to the people in 'this side of the world'.(north east indians were never really made to feel a part of the country which is a different issue alltogether)
    i personally feel that if we can get to highlight the AFSPA, and their attoricites towards the north east indians, we will eventually get to discuss Irom sharmila and then maybe we can make her break her fast...donno..

  22. @partywithneha,
    i agree with u..thanks for reading

  23. Hi Isha, I hope you r done with your follow-up article. Please send me the link on arunthaparian@gmail.com. It'll be really nice of you.