“I want to stay alive. I want to live. I want to marry, I want to love, but before I can do that, I want the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act removed from Manipur,” this was Irom Sharmila Chanu’s demand for which she went on an epic fast against AFSPA for 16 years. Sharmila decided to fight back by taking part in electoral politics, she contested against the chief minister of Manipur only to secure 90 votes in the assembly elections.
Sharmila saw electoral politics as the only way to repeal AFSPA, therefore she ended her fast, and contested against the chief minister of Manipur only to secure 90 votes in the assembly elections.
Like most crucial issues and struggles in India are overlooked, Sharmila’s struggle for humanity received only ninety people’s vote in Manipur where NOTA polled more votes than her. After the poll results, Manipur’s iron lady Irom Chanu Sharmila said she has been let down by her people and wants to retreat to an ashram for at least a month for introspection. She also said that she will quit politics.
In response to Sharmila’s defeat, an open letter to Manipuris written by a young student of the University of Hyderabad is making rounds on social media. The letter not only highlights the intensity of the betrayal of the iconic struggle but also reveals the security of Manipuris under shifting governments.
Provoking the mind of every Manipuri who are well aware of the violence enforced on them by the armed forces, the letter questions the choices made during the assembly elections.
Here is the full letter:
An open letter to all Manipuris
I’m neither an astrologer nor a highly educated learned person to write a stupid letter to all my respectable so called “akhang ahei” (experts). Hope you will forgive me if I hurt you in any way.
What will you feel when you are ignored by your own people, for whom you didn’t taste sareng (type of a fish) for more than 16 years, for whom you forgot the taste of rice? Those sacrifices turned out to be a waste. Those pains turn out to be in vain. Manipur Election Result 2017 showed that Sharmila managed to get less than 100 votes while Ibobi secured over 15,000 votes. Are our people too much blinded by the lust of money that can’t see those flashbacks? Our own mother, wife, girlfriend and sisters were raped; and our husband, boyfriend, father and brothers were killed. After 7 pm roads were deserted as if there is no human existence at all. Goosebumps came up whenever we saw the camouflage dress. No one knew when will their turn come but they knew for sure that it will be soon and didn’t want it to come. There was no need to watch news and read newspaper for we knew the news already-‘Someone’s death or someone’s rape or someone’s missing or some fake encounter.’ We used to feel afraid to even give birth to our own children because if it were a girl then tomorrow she will be raped and killed or if it were a boy then tomorrow he will be shot down.
Chitaranjan could have lived till now and enjoyed yaoshang, why did he give his life? Who raped Manorama? Who killed those civilians at Malom? Close your eyes and introspect deeply. Can you remember something?
In spite of every lost did you have the courage to fight like them? There came a lady to lead your path towards freedom from fear by sacrificing everything. 16 years is not a lame joke. Try to stay away from food for a day and see yourself in her position. How many ningol chakouba (festival honoring the ties of siblings) she didn’t celebrate with her family? For how many cheiraoba (Manipuri New Year) she missed her mom’s eromba (special dish)? For whom? Just for us. While she was fighting for you, you called her “eche” (sister) , when she asked for vote for only your sake, you called her selfish lover of chair? Is her pain really fruitful? What happened to those years of struggle against the government? Those bandhs and strikes turned out to be just fun games, those martyrs’ body turned out to be just a source of light during power cuts, while having a peg. Those tires and effigies burnt in the middle of the roads turned out to be just a helping hand to increase air pollution.
Are we that poor or stupid that we had sold our freedom, rights and struggle to that demon again? Why are we jumping to fire again when we know that it is hot? Is money equivalent to your sisters’ and brothers’ lives? It’s a very shameful part of our people. Now let’s regret for our deed for more five years. These years let’s burn effigies and tires more to add more pollutants to the atmosphere, again let’s snatch food from those daily waged workers by our bandhs and strike. Your decisions are also true -she doesn’t have a penny to contribute for thabal, she doesn’t have any job to give you neither she has any muscle power to help you fight your neighbor.
Subsequently, the writer has written a follow-up letter to Sharmila which has been shared exclusively with Newsd. Herein she speaks about Sharmila’s irreplaceable role in the history of Manipur and salutes her spirit.
The letter reads:
You could have stayed with your family for those years, you could have enjoyed your mom’s eromba, you could have just sat quietly and watch how people were so active in adding air pollutants. You could have just chewed a zardaa paan and see your brothers dying and sisters being raped.
In spite of being ignored by your own people for those whom you forgot the taste of food, you just put on a smile and was ready to fight! People called you ‘lover of chair and a lost stupid leader’, but you smiled back at them and still ready to fight for them! You are great, Eche. No one can take your place; your love for us is unbounty. Neither you have money to give them pegs nor to give them for yaoshang thabal, but you have that spirit to resist everything and fight for us.
Salute to you.