Written by Ningombam Bupenda Meitei
Prime Minister Narendra Modi knows that even if he were to contest against Manipur CM Ibobi Singh in the 2017 Assembly elections, he would squarely lose in the Northeastern state. He must bring a local face to the fray. And therefore, this local – Irom Sharmila – has only stated publicly, “I want to be Manipur’s CM”. She never said, “I want to be India’s PM.”
Manipur Assembly did not legislate AFSPA. The Indian Parliament validated AFSPA and the prime minister safeguards the law. The Supreme Court has not yet ordered that AFSPA is illegal and unconstitutional.
The demand to repeal AFSPA must mean “repeal, invalidate, delete AFSPA from the Constitution of India and law of the land”, and “remove AFSPA from Manipur” is asking “to remove AFSPA from Manipur only and it has no effect with regard to whether AFSPA shall be repealed or not”.
How can the withdrawal of an Act from Manipur be possible when it is not revoked by the Union of India? Will it guarantee that the state will not come under the Act’s purview in the future? How can that state’s CM revoke the legislation as the decision rests only with the Parliament, and must be initiated by the PM alone?
Just by becoming an MLA or the CM, can one decide not to declare the state as part of the “Disturbed Areas” – the prerequisite for AFSPA to be introduced in a territory?
Will Assam Rifles leave the state after Manipur’s “Disturbed Areas” tag is removed by the state Cabinet? And after the removal of the tag, will the ministry of home affairs, which operates Assam Rifles, and the ministry of defence, which takes care of the Army officers deputed to the paramilitary force allow it to continue in the region without the support of AFSPA?
Would that be doing justice to the soldiers?
If one really wants to repeal AFSPA, and not revoke it temporarily from one state only to win an election, the most appropriate means is to ensure that it is declared null and void by the Parliament, not an Assembly.
The most symbolic gesture would be to take on a political leader who is responsible for safeguarding and protecting AFSPA – that is the prime minister of India – by fighting an electoral battle against them.
In order to keep her promise, can Irom Sharmila contest against PM Modi in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections and defeat him in a parliamentary constituency?
Marriage of political convenience?
Marriage shall always be honoured and respected as a personal choice, and should never be politicised. But the individual, especially a poll candidate, is also expected not to politicise or make electoral gains from a personal union.
In Irom Sharmila’s case, the larger question is: will she marry before or after the Manipur elections?
Valmiki is remembered today not as a thief, but as the author of Ramayana.
Phoolan Devi is not remembered as a rebel, but as a former Member of Parliament.
In the case of Valmiki and Phoolan Devi, the end justifies the means. For a Mahatma Gandhi, the means justify the end. One cannot choose to be both Phoolan Devi and the Mahatma at the same time.
The difference in their paths should be the point of a serious engaging debate for the politician Irom Sharmila.
The writer is Ningombam Bupenda Meitei. The piece has been published on Daily of India Today.