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Irom Sharmila: Growing Moral Power of a Real Satyagrahi

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India's daughter, Irom Sharmila, is a truly stellar student of Mahatma Gandhi's teachings and principles.

Her method of application is unique to her, and is a purer effort than anything the face of the Earth has seen in known centuries.

It is the great love inside this World Sister that calls out to the love in those who are denying that love and truth are the core of our beings, who pretend through arrogance that love is not who and what we are. It is this love that has inspired her to undertake the spontaneous and natural response of the Fast to gross human violations of our one shared heart, to the pretence and denial of our inescapable inner knowing that love is the most important thing we will ever experience here, in our lives on this Earth. And thus began her monumental Satyagraha.

Minnie Vaid, who recently published a book called Two Journeys, that included her own work, and the Birthpoem of Irom Sharmila, had this to say of meeting someone in whom moral power stands supreme:

“The first impression was of her frailty, she is quite tiny and slim, the first thing you notice is the tube in her nose….once she starts talking and maintains an inflexible stand backed by tremendous faith in God, you realize she is far far from frail….the term ‘Iron Lady’ is absolutely apt.”

“I would describe Sharmila thus: incredible courage and determination, inflexible will, she does not care if others support her or not, she continues her fast undeterred. More than the hunger issue or missing food and water, she has managed to remain calm and composed, with a stable mind in the face of terrifying loneliness. She is not allowed friends and visitors unless they get official permission so she largely leads a solitary life.” (From interview by Chintan Girish Modi

A successful satyagraha campaign has several distinct phases. the basics are: the confrontation with injustice; the call to truth - in Irom's case, through the use of the Fast as a prayer to Truth; resistance and suppression of that call to truth, in which we see in her being jailed, silenced and forcefed for the last 13 years; and then, as the sheer will of the resistor of injustice grinds on and their moral power  becomes undeniable in the minds of the oppressors also, finally meaningful dialogue begins.

This is the power of Satyagraha, clinging to Truth.  At a certain point, the scales tip, and the wrong doer begins to seek to make amends, as either their personal conscience is pricking, or the power of public opinion forces them to acknowledge the call to truth, see the injustice, and work to right the wrong.  Everyone ultimately prefers to be on the winning side, especially if in politics.

The way of the Satyagrahi is found in the inner chambers of the heart. It is the path of obedience to conscience and Truth. Gandhi sought to keep the ethical ideal high in the minds of those who would offer Satyagraha.

[These] are hints to the Satyagrahis that they must appeal to God alone. The courts of this world cannot help them. How can they? The courts of a blind king must also be blind. This does not mean that the officers of the court—the judges—were blind. But there can be no other result when the officers administer an unjust law. Therefore, a Satyagrahi’s appeal lies to his own strength, to his faith in God, and his God given strength. These will never fail him.

Gandhi recognized that women have ample stores of moral strength, more than men, given by the Creator toguide mankind. He saw that women's participation to reform society would ensure purity in clinging to Ahimsa – Love. Gandhi put more reliance upon women as Satyagrahis than men.

“For the courage of self-sacrifice woman is any day superior to man as I believe man is to woman for courage of the brute.”

 “I would love to find that my future army contained a vast preponderance of women over men. If the fight came, I should then approach it with much greater confidence than if men predominated. I would dread the latter’s violence. Women would be my guarantee against such an outbreak.”

Irom Sharmila,  scion of true strength, and queen of patience,  has, for 13 years put in a universal call to all consciences.  All that is happening to remove AFSPA from India, is in many ways, tied to her unending effort. As the prayer of her Fast is heard, and recognition of her moral power spreads, meaningful dialogue is the first phase of winning compromise.

This dialogue is happening now in more and more circles of governance.

Whether we like it or not, we are subject to the laws of our country.  To change the law takes many efforts, all at once.  The biggest force, is demonstrable public unity, for governance is ultimately, to be of and for the people, and cannot govern without their consent.  Barring that, extreme strenuous efforts by individuals, such as Irom Sharmila, hold out the ideal before people, and scrape our conscience.  As more people respond to the touch of that ideal, dialogue, protest,  and public unity supporting truth begins.  When dialogue reaches a certain point of reciprocity, change occurs.  This has been happening with greater and greater momentum in Manipur and Kashmir, two places under tremendous distress from the AFSPA act.

There have been some encouraging developments, we are beginning to hear a language of dialogue and responsiblity in the media regarding AFSPA.

On May 29th, Human Rights Alert and Asian Legal Resource Center went to the UN in  Geneva, and, as a side event, held meetings with evidence that  supported the report of the UN Special Rapporteur Manjoo on the atrocities of AFSPA and civilian justice in Manipur.  

Along with this, an Association of Victim's Families in Manipur took a list of over 1500 people who have been unjustly killed by AFSPA to the Supreme Court of India, demanding governmental accountability.  The Supreme Court appointed a committee to see if the list was true, and found that it is true. The finding demands action.

Image and video hosting by TinyPicOn June 4th the Chief Minister of Kashmir, Omar Abdullah,   ​which is also under AFSPA, met with the Prime Minister of India:

New Delhi, June 05 2013: Making a strong pitch for phased removal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today asked the Centre to set in motion a mechanism which could guide in repealing of the act from the state.

"I am of the firm belief that all outstanding issues, however, contentious they may be, can be resolved through a process of sustained and sincere dialogue.

[Bold Italics  Ed.'s.from:]

When power learns to talk with respect for the voices that power would rather ignore,  the first steps to establishing democracy, justice and equitable society are made.

We must keep up our optimistic faith that Irom Sharmila's efforts will be rewarded; hers are efforts for humanity in all of us to be honoured. We cannot lose her, we cannot let her cause wane.


with love in service to truth, 

Aunty Kamala

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