Irom Sharmila talks about why women need to work together for peace.
The Iron Lady of India, Irom Sharmila, your protest is now entering its 13th year. When you look back, do you think these titles weigh heavy on you?
It is the people’s movement. I don’t know what will happen tomorrow, I know nothing of the future. I am happy in the present. Some portion of my struggle was fulfilled in 2004. The Indian Army was stationed at the Kangla Fort which is sacred to my people. By keeping guns, occupying it, the armed forces were defiling something that was sacred to us. When the Assam Rifles vacated Kangla in November 2004, I felt happy that this was achieved as a result of the people’s struggle.
In many ways this has been a lonely struggle, the sacrifices have been yours. Do you feel heartened by the fact that people from across the world have come forward to
Even if my struggle was unheard, I would still do it. But I am happy that the people are awakening. The central government is trying to distract me, they say I am trying to commit suicide. But it is not true, I am not committing suicide. This is only a non-violent way to fulfil my goals.
You started your unique protest to oppose AFSPA 12 years ago. The government has not changed its stance yet, do you feel discouraged?
I always follow my conscience. My conscience always keeps me in balance in body and in mind. I never see my situation as being tough or my circumstances as being easy. My conscience tells me what is wrong and what is right. It is a people’s movement. They need to realise this. It is the beginning of a real movement. I am hopeful even if the government is trying to ignore my voice. My real target will be fulfilled if the people awaken.
It is yet another season of protests, we see many eager to adopt violence today. Your struggle is therefore unique, perhaps that is another strength of your message?
Gandhiji succeeded in his struggle to get independence from the British. I am following his example. The central government is trying to weaken my resolve. I never want to give suggestions to others, whether they are violent or non-violent. I am doing what is right by my conscience.
When people are uniting to condemn violence against women, there are many who can take inspiration from you.
I want to tell them, let them realise that women are half mass of the population of the entire world. They are the stronger sex. We should work together and not look upon each other as inferior or superior. We can learn so much from nature, for example birds build their nests as equals. They don’t look at each other as superior or inferior. We should imitate their example. We human beings are the highest living beings, we can control our lives. So as a rational being we should look upon each other as equals.
Do you think about the day when your goals shall be achieved, when you will break your fast? What are the things you look forward to doing then?
I don’t think about the situation to come. I just like to surrender to God. I know nothing of the future. I am happy just living in the present.
—Irom Sharmila was interviewed by Pratyush Dubey for Zee News