We get celebrities to give their take on a current issue each week and lend their perspective to a much-discussed topic. This week we talk about: Irom breaking her fast.
Earlier this week, Irom Sharmila, the 44-year-old icon of protest against Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), ended her 16-year fast. She had started what has become the world’s longest fast at the age of 28, following a massacre in Imphal in which the police killed 10 people. She has been demanding repeal of the draconian law. On the day she broke her fast, she also declared that she would like to be the chief minister of Manipur. Following her declaration, many of her erstwhile supporters, have reportedly turned their backs on her and have ostracised the Iron Lady. We glean insights on the backlash that Irom’s decision and declaration have got.
Anil Dharker, author: ‘It seems like a logical move to me’
Irom Sharmila has continued her fast long enough and it’s a shame that the public turned against her. It is unfortunate that people want her to be a martyr. After these many years, the fact remains that her fast hasn’t had the effect; the only way to achieve it is through politics. It seems like a logical move to me. As far as her ambition to be the CM goes, that only time will tell. As a protestor she can only criticise, but if she becomes a CM, she can certainly change what she wants. So my sympathies are fully with her.
Megha Joshi, artist: ‘It’s shameful how she’s been abandoned suddenly’
Irom Sharmila is such an icon of resistance. Whether through her fasting, or if she now continues her protest and involvement through politics, the point is that she is committed and will remain engaged — to judge her on how she must do it is unfair. It is shameful how she has been abandoned suddenly. How she fares in making changes through politics is of course to be seen but people’s support is essential for her now more than ever.
Sriram Karri, author of Mad Nations: ‘I really don’t know why she was never chosen for the Nobel’
I have been so amazed by Irom Sharmila. She went on the fast voluntarily. I really do not know why she was never chosen for the Nobel Peace Prize. Even though her efforts were unsuccessful — the AFSPA wasn’t lifted from Manipur — her deeds are inspirational. Don’t forget that she is from that part of India, which many people do not bother much about. She is not only an icon of the North-East, but an icon of resistance. It is a rarity because these days there are not many politicians who stick to one ideal, which she quite bravely has. One of my favourite political icons is Thomas Jefferson. But, I must add that we have icons like K.C.R. and Chandra Babu Naidu in both the states (Telengana and Andhra Pradesh).
Ashay Abbhi, author: ‘She can be our answer to Aung San Suu Kyi’
I think her decision is her decision. No one told her to go on a fast and no one can dictate when she should break it. If she felt it was no longer effective and wants to try another route, I am all for it. She should be the one to choose how she wants to protest — whether through a fast or binge eating or politics — it is her choice. I support her for what she is doing, whichever way she chooses to do it. She’s our Iron Lady, after all. I think Arvind Kejriwal has pretty much spoilt it for everyone. The trust is lost. She can be our answer to Aung San Suu Kyi and prove it. Then I suppose the trust could be earned back. But again, she’s an inspiration and her decision to enter politics will influence many.
Moushumee K. Jha, photographer: ‘Her 16-year fast against AFSPA will go down in history’
I think that Irom Sharmila has taken a very brave decision. She is an inspiration for those who struggle against injustice. Her 16-year fast against AFSPA will go down in history, similar to Nelson Mandela’s struggle against apartheid. People like Irom Sharmila must enter politics and lead our society as it changes from family-led to talent-led leaders. However, politics in India is quite dirty and those in power and enjoying the fruits of privilege and corruption will not easily give up their claims. We have already seen that as soon as Irom Sharmila expressed her desire to be the chief minister of Manipur, those people supporting her, and using her fast for their political objectives, stopped supporting her. She will have to undergo a different struggle and the people of Manipur will have to rally behind her so that she can achieve the change she seeks. In some ways her move to politics seems similar to that of Arvind Kejriwal. Aam Aadmi Party came to existence because the government refused to provide the anti-corruption legislation they wanted; Irom may also have to go the same way. But the force with which Arvind’s MLAs are being arrested and prosecuted shows why good people don’ want to enter politics.
Amandeep Sandhu, author: ‘I feel our craze for martyrs blinds us’
Irom Sharmila is a free individual who has the right to lead her own life; I support her decision. Given how the society has behaved after she broke her fast, I feel as a society our craze for martyrs blinds us to her awesome struggle for human rights. But, no, in all honesty, as of now it does not seem the youth will be inspired. Because our society is apathetic, the values are dying if not already dead....