by Nilanjana Biswas (email@example.com )
"Nothing is impossible or unreachable
In that place where truth is lucid and pure
No excuse exists for untruth
Human wrongs are punished
Not excused or ignored
- Irom Sharmila Chanu
On the 2nd of November this year, in the north eastern state of Manipur, the young poet, Irom Sharmila Chanu, will enter her tenth year of unbroken hunger fast. To make sure that not even accidentally does a drop of water break the solemn vow she undertook nearly a decade ago, she uses dry cotton to clean her teeth. The fast is not a punishment, she says in a documentary interview: “I think it is my bounden duty at my best level”. Her eyes are closed. Each word is uttered slowly and carefully, as if fired in gold in the crucible of her enduring body.
Irom Sharmila’s vow to eat nothing, drink nothing, give up footwear and leave her hair unoiled and uncombed until the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) is lifted from her home state is a simple and audacious act of protest. It was the Malom massacre of Nov 1, 2000, where ten innocent persons were gunned down by security forces in Malom village, Manipur, which convinced the young poet that she must act. The next day she announced her fast. While Irom Sharmila has staunchly stuck to her resolve, the State’s response has been unbelievably apathetic: ordering forcible feeding through a nose tube as well as periodic arrests for attempted suicide together with a complete disregard of her demand for the repeal of the AFSPA.