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Monday, March 13, 2017

Irom Sharmila of global fame could barely convert 90 votes in Manipur

Modiji has swept the Nation again .. .. the election results are there for all to see ! – some of the elites do not take the pain to vote even, but would be vociferous on FB and other social media about the way, masses swing .. .. seeing the way election tempo picks up and the way electioneering is organized, it would be tough or close to impossible to match the dravidan parties even today in Tamil Nadu. Almost none of the leaders draw crowds as it happened a couple of decades, no street corner meetings, no cycle rallies, no small processions, no auto led rally with candidate bowing to all corners from jeep ~ life has changed.  The most important Q would always remain – who is popular icon and what is the factor that can convert into votes.  Is popularity enough ? doing something which attracts all people enough ? having been associated with what common man think as the main cause enough ? – there will only be queries and more queries ..

In Aug 2016, she was the only talk of the media – there was shocked commotions over the end of her nearly 16-year-long hunger strike odyssey transformed dramatically in texture and tone, as if in a grand symphony when the music suddenly transitions from one movement to another of radically different tempo, after steadily climbing to a climactic crescendo.  
A month earlier,  during one of her routine court appearances, she  had announced to the media she would be ending her fast, and as a change of strategy in the anti-AFSPA campaign, she would be joining politics. She also said she is considering marrying the man she has been in love with for a few years now.   It was not welcomed ! – some quarters were not prepared to accept their icon marrying.

For ages, the reds and media had painted that -  Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, is a draconian law introduced in Assam (when Nagaland was still part of Assam) and parts of Manipur in 1958 to fight the Naga insurgency. They wanted her to keep on fighting, forgetting the fact that she had done that for 16 years ! – so how well do people respond to such a leader ? – you already know the answer.

Manipur literally meaning “A jewelled land” nestle deep within a lush green corner of North East India. It seems much like an exquisite  work of art  executed by superb hands of Nature and is indeed a state of exquisite natural beauty and splendors, the beauty of which once inspired Mrs. St. Clair Grimwood described it as “A Pretty Place more beautiful than many show places of the world”.  Surrounded by blue hills with an oval shaped valley at the centre, rich in art and tradition and surcharged with nature’s pristine glory. Manipur lies on a melting pot of culture. It is birth place of Polo. This is the place  where Rajashree Bhagyachandra created the famous Ras Lila, the classical dance of Manipur, out of his enchanting dream by the grace of Lord Krishna.

Having a varied and proud history from the earliest times, Manipur came under the British Rule as a Princely State after the defeat in the Anglo-Manipuri War of 1891. After independence of India in 1947, the Princely State of Manipur was merged in the Indian Union on October 15, 1949 and became a full-fledged State of India on the 21th January, 1972 with a Legislative Assembly of 60 seats -  represented in the Lok Sabha by two members and by one member in the Rajya Sabha.  BJP submitted a list of 32 MLAs — claiming a majority of two in Manipur's 60-member assembly — to governor Najma Heptullah on Sunday and furnished letters of support from regional parties.  BJP, which won 21 seats, claimed the support of National People's Party (4 MLAs), Naga People's Front (4), LJP (1) and two others — lone independent Ashab Uddinand T Robindro Singh, who was elected on a Trinamool ticket.

Ending her 16-year fast when she took a few drops of honey, Irom Chanu Sharmila could not hold back her tears. Perhaps, she did not realise that there could be bitter moments with the people - a few moments later the frail woman, who had been force-fed all these years, regained composure and announced that she wants to be the Chief Minister of Manipur, some day. “There is no democracy in Manipur. I want to be Chief Minister of Manipur and make positive changes,” she said calmly.  Media wrote that the  moment marked a historic transformation of Irom Shamila from a global icon of protest and the most recognisable face of resistance in the conflict-ridden State into a political leader. She had  started her fast at the age of 28 following a massacre in Imphal in which 10 persons were killed. – so one thought, she might become the face of Manipur.

In politics, life is never easy -  Irom Sharmila Chanu's dreams to become a legislator got dashed on Saturday after she suffered a humiliating defeat in the hands of three-time Congress chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh in the assembly elections. Of all the five candidates who are in the fray in Thoubal, Ibobi Singh polled 18,649 votes, while Sharmila got a meagre 90 votes. "As the chief minister had paid no heed to my call to repeal AFSPA during my 16-year-long fast, I had come out to fight against him through electoral politics and thank people for these 90 precious votes, she had to say.   Her political dream shattered, her eyes brimming with tears, she announced her departure from the ring. ‘I will never set foot in here again’, she declared.

Media had criticized that the  system denied her food, and love and companionship for 16 years. Now her own people, for whom she suffered have forced her  to renounce electoral politics without ever having the chance to experience what a life in politics would look like. Is it a reflection of her popularity, is it a reflection of how fickle people change, is it a reflection that the fasting itself was unwarranted, is that a shortcoming as a political leader ? – more Q – fact remains that what she fought and did so sincerely has not been recognized or understood by her own people and perhaps there is a basic flaw.  Despite dissatisfaction of a 15 year Congress rule, their Netas have won but not her.  Clear, clear message that international fame and coverage in global media is absolutely no pointer to reality.

Feeling sad for her.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
13th Mar 2017.


PS : before writing more on her electoral epilogue and stating elections are bad, one needs to recall the great Tamil scholar, famous lawyer, the man who fought the British by running steamship transportation.   Kappalottiya Tamilan, as V.O. Chidambaram Pillai (VOC)  was arrested in sedition case by the British, was cruelly treated in prison,  had to pull manually the oil press  and all of us called British – most cruel.  Post prison, VOC’s life turned out to be more heart-rending. He had to eke out a living by running outlets that sold rice and ghee, in Mylapore, Chintadripet and Perambur. He even worked as a clerk in a bank for a while, but eventually came to Chennai in 1916 and remained here until 1932. He returned to Thootukudi to spend his final years.  His clan contested elections and were badly defeated.

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