I was restless for last 4-5 days. After state elections result I wrote a Facebook post on Irome Sharmila, who got only 90 votes.
There was no political comment or criticism either. The message was clear that she fought for people, and people have decoded her as an “Alone Fighter’’. But so many people reacted on that post with their own views, and finally they have compelled me to write on it.
But I have never been to Manipur. So it is against the basic journalistic ethics and structure. But Anand Mangnale rescued me. He studied Media Campaign and Social Change from UK. He was the campaign manager and one of the key strategists for Irome’s People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRAJA).
Anand was with Irome for more than 2 months and that too voluntarily as she couldn’t afford star strategist like Prashant Kishore.
Irome’s decision to fight elections was not blind. She was very much aware about peoples displeasure about her decision to end her 16 year long fast.
Manipuri’s had strong feeling of betrayal. They did not want Irome to end her fast against despotic law AFSPA ( Armed Forces Special Protection Act ).
Anand’s team did extensive survey in Manipur about AFSPA. Result were so expected. They wanted AFSPA to be removed as soon as possible. Irome promised that she will bring referendum in Vidhan Sabha about AFSPA. So people will come to know the truth.
So question is what went wrong?
Second thing is as we all know that Manipur is a backward state. Last year Chief Minister Okram Ibobi singh had tabled deficit budget around 767 crore. Centre also provides handsome funds. Still roads are worst, most part of Manipur don’t have basic amenities like education, water, electricity and other. As Anand said, Manipur is far away from India. They do not have that connect with outer world. Irome raised these issues. Manipur is flooded with Shell Oil. Jubillee Pvt. Ltd. is a main beneficiary. The company is making huge profit from drilling. But nothing has been changed in Manipuri’s life. So Irome proposed that benefits of the mineral oil should be in well being of state subject.
She tried to convince people that they deserve same free and fair life that outsiders enjoy. She too was talking about development as Prime Minister Narendra Modi & Akhilesh Yadav of Uttar Pradesh stressing in their campaign in the northern state.
So is it right to say that she didn’t have any plans for Manipuri’s?
Absolutely, Irome is not a political leader. She does not know the gimmicks of ‘so called Politics’. She was not well equipped with man, money and muscle power, which requires in new era politics. She does not know how to manage booths. What she knows is she want to upgrade the life of Manipuri’s.
She chose to contest on only 3 seats. She chose her lieutenants carefully. They were well educated, cultured and with well intentions.
Erendro Leichonbam is one of them. He fought from Thangmeiband constituency. He studied at Howard. Worked with UNDP (United Nations Development Programme). Obviously he does not have any criminal and corrupt record. His opponents were BJP’s Jyotin Waikhom and Congress’s Khumukcham Joykisan Singh. Both swapped their political parties just before elections for their own interest. There is nothing about ideology, principles and all. So we can judge what kind of politics they played. What kind of benefits Manipuri’s would get out of their self centered malign politics? So ideally people of Thangmeiband should have chosen Erendro over BJP’s Jyotin & Congress’s Joykisan. But Erendro got only 550 votes, and Joykisan who shifted from BJP to Congress won the election.
Irome’s second choice was Najima Bibi. She fought from Wabagai in Thoubal district. She was a first Muslim woman from Manipur who was contesting election. She ended her abusive marriage. She started self help group for women’s. Her entry into patriarchal traditions left Muslim clerics red faced. They issued fatwa against Najima Bibi. So it was easy ride for Congress candidate Fajur Rahman and Janata Dal candidate Habibur Rehma. Both were from Muslim community. They tried hard to demoralise Najima Bibi, but Bibi didn’t gave up. She campaigned hard. Met women’s. Asked them to vote for change. Her trademark bicycle and hijab was well known in her constituency. But her hard work and good intentions did not pay her. Our patriarchal system and bigotry defeated Bibi badly in election. However she managed to get only 33 votes.
I think her elective lost also a biggest victory for her. It is not easy to inspire, awake 33 people from this conservative part to lead a progressive path.
So as a citizen of India, I feel bad and wonder about our acceptance of criminal, corrupt politics. How can we make up our mind that corruption or communalism isn’t issue? We changed the definition of politics? And now political analysts and pundits dare to ask question that “Does she know how to fight a election? Does she have machinery? Does she have a vision? “
I don’t know what they expect actually. Some people crossed their limits to say she is gift of left align activism and media. Is it so? If she was not so impressive and misfit in new kind of politics, why you guys are so curious about her?
It is not defeat of Irome or her colleagues. It is a loss of our society towards better, free and fair politics.
We never ask question how Raja bhaiyya or Shahabuddin or Mukhtar Ansari managed to won election from jail. We have never ask that how the people become minister or even chief minister, who always did the communal politics over the years of period. We never bother how the man like Gayatri Prajapati, who was below poverty line 5 years back made huge money within his ministership.
We are pseudo intellectuals. Who do not have courage to address wrong things. We just managed to change our agenda with the power centre. We are opportunist. Our heroism is only alive on facebook page and on twitter account.
So we need not to be cynical about Irome’s new experiment, Her intentions, Her 90 votes, Which she has earned after fasting for years.