IRON LADY AND HER STRIVE FOR PEACE IN MANIPUR
Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh, India.
Manipur, a hilly land on the Indo-Burma border has been most disturbed area in the North east region of India. Manipur is known for insurgency operations since many decades. After deployment of Armed Forces in Manipur, there has been a long debate about the violation of human rights in Manipur area. Militant groups such as Manipur Naga Revolutionary Front (MNRF), Peoples United Liberation Front(PULF), Zeliangrong United Front (ZUF) etc., Fighting for the liberation of Manipur from India since long time. In the year 1949, Maharaja Budhachandra denoted the instrument of promotion to merge the kingdom into India. Starting there, the legislative assembly was separated and Manipur turned into a part of India in October 1949.
Manipuri people are the evident of human rights violation. Many times there has been missing cases and the next day the bullet ridden body is found. These numbers of incidents create a terror and psychological ill health on human beings and thereby depriving their capability in many ways. Despite all these struggles State of Manipur produced substantial number of sportspersons and one of them is Mary Kom.
Manipuri people alleged Armed Forces Special Powers (AFSPA) Act, 1958 is one of the most draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament passed. In the discussion, it was observed that the objective of AFSPA is to provide law and order in the places where the normal order has been disturbed but quite on the contrary, the Act provides security personnel with absolute powers without accountability. This leads to various atrocities and human rights violation by the security agencies, they added. Apunba Manipur Kanba Ima Lup(AMKIL) advisor Khangenbam Anandi, alleged that imposition of the draconian law means suspension of right to life in Manipur. Taking part in the discourse, chairman of Committee on Human Rights (COHR) Phulindro Konsam alleged that AFSPA has been using the act as an instrument to suppress and oppress the people of Manipur by government of India and its security forces.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958:
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is one of the most draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament has passed during its sixty-four years of existence as an independent country. It is a modified version of an old British colonial Act imposed to control nationwide struggle by the Indian masses for independence.
It has certain provisions: – under section 4 of the AFSPA Act – All security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operation, once an area is declared disturbed, even a commissioned officer, warrant officer, non commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area, shoot, arrest, and search, all in the name of “aiding civil power.”
The army can shoot to kill; the army can enter and search without a warrant, can destroy property and arrest anyone it chooses- without a warrant. Under section 5, any criminal caught should be handed over to the nearest police station with the “least possible delay”. Under section 6 – no legal proceeding can be brought against any member of the armed forces under the AFSPA, without the permission of the central Government. It gives sweeping powers to soldiers, and makes them virtually immune from prosecution. Since 1980 this Act was imposed in Manipur and has enabled a range human rights violation including extra judicial executions and fake encounters.
EFFECT OF AFSPA ON COMMON PEOPLE:
Due to the imposition of AFSPA, Manipuri people lead a timorous life and they are the ultimate victims of atrocities committed by the rude commandos, Paramilitary, army etc. the common people who work in the fields or do manual labour are the worst sufferers. Numerous innocent lives have been lost in addition to the large number of people who have disappeared without any trace. For example Y. Sanamacha, aged 15 years was allegedly picked up by army personnel in February 1998 and has gone missing since then. The merciless killing of Th.Manorama was one of the major incident in Manipur. All these incidents have had a great impact on Manipuri people and created tension and apprehension in their day to day lives.
Cases like the Malom massacre, Manorama and fake encounter cases which have led to widespread unrest among the local population. Manipuri Mothers strive for repeal of AFSPA is not a recent one. They have been continuously striving for this cause since many years.
MANIPUR IRON LADY:
Irom Chanu Sharmila, who spent her most valuable time in her life to repeal the AFSPA from Manipu was born on 14th Februay 1972 in Kongpal , Imphal, Manipur, India. She also known as the “Iron Lady” or “Mengoubi” (the fair one) is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the State of Manipur. She has been also called as “the world’s longest hunger striker”. She began her hunger strike on 5th November 2000 and ended it on 9th August 2016 in protest of India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. 
On 2nd November 2000 in Malom, a town in the Imphal valley,10 civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles while they were waiting at a bus stop. The incident later came to be known to activists as the “Malom Massacre.” After three days of the incident i.e, on 5th November, Irom began her fast in Malom, and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed. Three days after she began her strike, she was arrested by the police and charged with an “attempt to commit suicide”, which was crime under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) , and was later transferred to judicial custody. Her health deteriorated rapidly, and nasogastric intubation was forced on her from 21 November in order to keep her alive while under arrest. Despite her best efforts to repeal of the AFSPA, even on today the State of Manipur is the land known for insurgency operations.
In the year 2014, she was voted the top woman icon of India by Micro Soft Network (MSN) Poll on International Women’s Day. She was awarded with 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which is given to “an outstanding person or a group, who is very active in the advocacy of peace, Democracy and Human Rights. She shared this award with Lenin Raghuvanshi of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, a northeastern Indian human rights organization. Further in the year 2009, she was awarded with the first Mayillama Award of the Mayilamma Foundation “for achievement of her nonviolent struggle in Manipur”.
In 2010, she won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission. Later that year, she won the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management which came with a cash award of 5,100,000 rupees, and the Sarva Gunah Sampannah “Award for Peace and Harmony” from the Signature Training Centre. In 2013 Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of conscience, and said she “is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.” The influence made by Irom Sharmila is often considered as powerful as the influences by personalities in the past and present.
Ineffective governance and its consequences:
Manipuris are often misunderstood and humiliated by the people in other parts of India and unfortunately students. It has played a big role in alienating the young generation of Manipur from the national mainstream.
Nearly 16 years Irom Sharmila took hunger strike for the repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, but no move has been made by the Centre to address the genuine grievances of the people by repealing this inhuman act. It has created an impression in the minds of the people that different yardsticks are adopted by the Centre in dealing with issues relating to the North East as compared to the States in the Indian mainland. This has made people to raise slogans like “Fight an armed miscreant with arms but let the innocent people live in peace”.
Iron Lady who fought for 16 years for the repeal of AFSPA, 1958 from State of Manipur though failed in repeal of the Act, we must realize her commitment throughout her valuable life to fight with the Government. She herself dedicated to end war, violence in Manipur State for many years through non-violence she tried her level best to change the society. Her contribution should be noteworthy in Manipuri’s life. Conversely, we can find that there is a gradual reduction in the attacks on common people compared to last decades. Thought there are no positive steps from the government except to removal of AFSPA from capital city i.e, Imphal, conversely Irom’s hunger strike shaken the world community and has become a big debate about her commitment and concern about Manipuri people.
 The law allows Indian armed forces who are deployed in areas the government deems “disturbed areas” to act with near impunity and shoot, kill and occupy civilian houses at will.