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Irom Sharmila

September 12, 2011

This is a name that is fairly unknown in India. One of those tragedies that the Indian public just ignores.

But it is one of those names that is fairly popular in the international media.

Irom Chanu Sharmila is the “Iron Lady of Manipur”. The woman who has been fasting for 11 years protesting the army atrocities in Manipur and other Eastern states. But the Indian media, like much of the Indian public, is not particularly concerned about Eastern India and the problems there.

It could be our general apathy to death and terror, regardless of who it is caused by. Or it could be the fact that the east Indian culture is a little more liberal and different than the rest of the country. Whatever be the reason, the media has not bothered much to support Irom.

Of course, there is also the fact that ‘news’ is often defined as what is breaking right now and what the others are covering. So, we talk about what every other news channel is talking about, and sensationalizing it.

Of course, Irom’s story does have all those juicy elements – corruption, death, drama etc. But the only coverage it is gaining now is in comparison to Anna Hazare, which was a successful and beautifully executed protest.

Why such apathy towards one of our own? We write about human right violations in China, in Iraq and Afghanistan. We even write about how a celebrity got slapped around. But we do not cover this issue… a crucial one that has been going on for so long in our own backyard.

In college, I visited a charity organization. I cannot remember the purpose… it was a project we were supposed to do… and we chose to visit a small house that had some kids from east India. The ages varied from 2-18 years… and there were stories about how they were all here because the situation in East India was so precarious. They were constantly under attack by rebel forces or the army, the children said.

Why is the Army Special Forces Act still in existence there? Is the situation really so bad that we need to give the army unlimited powers?

I have the highest respect for the defense forces of our country. At the same time, unlimited power without any supervision corrupts even the best of us.

And does a story like Irom’s get any notice only if it has a brilliant campaign team behind it like Anna’s did?

 

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