New Delhi: Anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare's 13-day fast might have attracted thousands and captured the imagination of an entire nation, but in sharp and dismaying contrast is the iconic struggle of Irom Sharmila in Manipur.
She has been on a fast for over a decade, without food and water. Her brother said that the indifference by the government, politicians, civil society, even media and the people is shameful.
For ten years Irom Sharmila Chanu hasn't eaten a morsel of food, nor taken a drop of water. She is fasting in protest, demanding that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act must go to free Manipur from fear.
Today, the Gandhian on a modern day satyagraha is a high security prisoner booked under attempt to suicide.
She weighs just 37 kgs and most of her body organs are wasted. Her menstrual cycle has stopped. The Indian state has kept her alive on a cocktail of vitamins and nutrients and she is force fed twice a day through her nose.
When Team Anna already backed by thousands asked Sharmila for her support, the Iron lady expressed her solidarity but asked why could she not get the advantage of exercising her non-violent protest for justice as a democratic citizen of a democratic country.
"When Anna started fasting for four days in the month of April, Parliament, intellectual circles, the NGOs and the citizens of India discussed his issue very deeply. So, we thought that we the people from North east are not the citizens of India," her brother said.
The AFSPA gives the Army and the paramilitary forces the power to use force, shoot or arrest anyone on a mere suspicion. Sharmila began her fast after an incident in Malom when ten innocent civilians were gunned down by men of the Assam rifles.
The faith of the young woman in a hospital bed still remains unshaken.
"Whether Anna supports her or not, it doesn't matter. If he supports her it's very good as a citizen and as a human being. But at another point if he doesn't support her that is also fine with us. Sharmila will continue her fasting until she gets her demand," her brother said.
Sharmila's simple Gandhian fast is an epic protest that remains unparalleled in history.
She is only matched by the protest of 12 mothers of Manipur who disrobed themselves to protest the indifference of a disinterested nation when Thangjoram Manorma, was picked up by the Assam Rifles claiming she was part of an underground group. Her body was later found with clear signs of brutal torture and rape.
The women of Manipur have protested bared and dared, but sadly no one is listening.