Are all Indians Treated as ‘Equal’ citizens?

The other day I came across the most appalling message by a Mumbai based writer. He wrote.”
Dear Irom Sharmila,
Now you know.
You know what India thinks of North-eastern women who fast. You know that your body is not sacred.
But a man’s body, a man from mainland India? No, the Indian government would never interfere with his right to fast and protest. They just give in.
Meanwhile, Indian soldiers strip your sisters of their rights and beat up your brothers.
…Now you know, Sharmila.
We all know.
I apologise”

Ever since Anna’s agitation transformed into India’s agitation a lot has been said, written about, captured on camera and debated. Even though the ‘India against corruption’ movement has gathered support literally in the form of the ‘2nd freedom struggle’ with even the spectator media being blamed for taking sides; it has also attracted a handful of criticism that the country cannot turn a deaf ear to. When people like Aruna Roy who has acted as the guiding light for Arvind Kejriwal calls the bill proposed by him and his team members ‘draconian’, it makes you think if all the noise is even worth having a sore throat for?

Another piece of criticism that Anna’s adamant fast attracted was in context of Irom Sharmila’s eleven year long fast. Not all have been as extreme as the one mentioned in the bigenning but questions like why is so much brouhaha being created around Anna’s fast and demands white Irom’s and many others like hers eats the dust? Is it because Anna is a celebrated Maharashtrian and Irom a conveniently forgotten Manipuri? Or is it because Anna is an aged man who has tagged himself as a Gandhian and Irom just another woman for whom fasting shouldn’t be a big deal?

Well although the questions irk and even hurt a little bit, they don’t really seem practical. The active critics seem to be holding Anna’s popularity and éclat against Irom’s obscurity. What could ideally be an act of inspiration turned into that of bitter assault. Thus instead of asking the government, if you could feed Anna (on his terms) in a matter of thirteen days why is Irom still being force-fed for eleven years now; they told Anna that Irom was first in line and he quite spoke out of turn.

The blame game has catches momentum pretty fast in our society and has got people thinking and talking. And while it is great to do both, the talks seem to go in the wrong direction. The blame of government’s eleven year of blissful ignorance has been conveniently been put on Anna’s shoulders in the name of over-popularity and too much noise.
Anybody who knows about Irom would not only sympathise with her cause but also stand with her and fight. But clearly that has not happened. There could be several reasons as to why Irom couldn’t become Anna.

The north-east has mostly been treated like an amputated part of India. The government policies are feeble and the people are treated like foreigners in their own country. These are the sad facts of a country as big and diverse as India. Thus for a cause to get transformed into a movement, the support of the local people is inevitable. Every person affected by the AFSPA must come out and seek justice for themselves. Right now the common man doesn’t even know who Irom is. Thus the local people must take it upon them to make noise, for it to echo throughout the country. If a strong foundation is built in Manipur itself, the media will cover it and people across the country would know, understand and stand with and for Irom.

Thus if you want to serve the country with criticism, make it constructive. Instead of throwing Irom and Anna in the ring against each other, let them take inspiration from and support each other. Their methods adopted may be different but their goal is the same, a better India.

Himanshi Chaudhary