Sunday, June 5, 2011

Remember Irom Sharmila, Baba

The Delhi Police's raid on the Ramlila Maidan and subsequent imposition of Section 144 in Delhi brings back the vast powers that the Government has to quell demonstrations. The police action was probably morally wrong, but legally, it was fully justified.

The mistake was that the Patanjali Yogoeeth - Baba Ramdev's Trust - booked the Ramlila Maidan for a yoga camp but held a protest there instead. It seems reminiscent of Communist China, but to hold a protest in a public place, you need the Government's permission. Still, the Police simply cancelled their permission without notice - although they did have a good excuse - and emptied the place.

All this might surprise someone who has just begun to follow political protests, but for those more used to Indian history, it should not come as a surprise. has anybody ever heard of Irom Sharmila, a Meiti woman in Manipur who has been on a hunger strike for the last ten years demanding the right to live respectably (the repeal of AFSPA, in other words). What happened to her? The Government keeps her on IV Fluids to keep her alive and also forces her to remain in a single hospital room, denying her fundamental rights.

Does the rest of India care? Well, there are voices in support (mine included) but a vast majority chooses to live in ignorance. And that has taken the strength out of hunger strikes. Double standards are applied so frequently by the Indian masses that arguing against it seems like a joke. Irom Sharmila's fast against an Act that denies about 10% of India's people the right to live as equal citizens is not important because it takes place in Northeast India, the forgotten part of India. And Baba Ramdev's fast is important because it is topical and he speaks in Hindi. And we were talking about the UPA's 'moral' right?

Had Baba Ramdev really known India's history, as he claims to, and heard of Irom Sharmila, he would have known that this was coming. When the Government wants to suppress something, it has the full backing of the law to do so, such is the nature of the British Indian law that we inherited. But the Indian masses' crass apathy for Irom Sharmila's hunger strike takes the sting out of any such action. We all remember KCR's hunger strike that led to so much chaos, or does South India also get as much media attention as the Northeast?

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