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She created history by fasting for 16 long years. She created a stir by demonstrating impeccable valour. Her quest for righteousness and never say die attitude won her the title of ‘The Iron Lady’. From being a timid child, to becoming a symbol of courage, Irom Sharmila has certainly come a long way to top the list of inspiring women of India.
Talks with her family available on some inspiring blogs for women reveal that Irom Sharmila was just another average girl — average at academics, average at sports. Little did her family know that she would turn out to be ‘perfectly average’ woman among the several top inspiring women of not just India, but the entire world. I mean, isn’t this the case with every other individual, irrespective of gender? How often do we worship the best, direct our ire at the worst and neglect the average?
Her fight dates back to the times when Manipur was living with the fear of men-in-uniform violating human rights under the garb of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Almost everyone was sceptical of how long a 28-year-old girl of ‘marriageable age’ would continue with her fight for justice. In November 2000, 10 civilians were allegedly shot dead in Malom, Manipur. Known as the Malom Massacre, this tragic incident catalysed the dormant rebel in her to make her embark on a non-violent fast, demanding the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – AFSPA.
While fasting unto death was the biggest part of her struggle, what we also should consider is the fact that she gave up the life of a normal 28-year-old not just for herself, but for the entire community. Like many others, she also could have ignored the situation and just lived with it, but the strong woman in her mentally prepared herself to give herself to society. She gave up not just eating and drinking, but also gave up combing her hair and looking into the mirror. In fact, she didn’t even meet her mother for those 16 long years.
She is very much like Mahatma Gandhi of 2016 in a few respects. Both of them didn’t care about themselves. Both of them believed that non-violence is the key. Both of them fasted unto death. The governments during both of their times could not afford to let them die fasting. To make her continue living, she was forcibly fed Horlicks, Cerelac, Appy and other fruit juices containing vital nutrients through a nasal tube. Sharmila, however, was a hard nut to crack. She resisted taking these nutrients and even used to wipe her teeth with cotton to avoid ingesting any liquid substance.
The interview she gave to NDTV during Anna Hazare’s protest against corruption in 2011 is among the most inspiring women interviews you would come across. You might not completely agree with her views, but the confidence she possesses will leave you awestruck. Her simplicity is revealed in the way she called herself a simple woman and Anna, a seasoned activist. The realist in her was seen when she said that eradicating corruption was the need of the hour, but too idealistic to be realistic.
From tender 28, to fortified 44, she has lost that part of her life which every other person adores the most.
After sacrificing so much for the cause, now that she wishes to contest elections and get married to her boyfriend in order to lead a normal life, she is, unfortunately, at the receiving end of wrath of the society.
So much so, that members of the Sharmila Kanba Lup, a pressure group named after her, abused her for “abandoning the cause” and dissolved the group to erase her name. Irom Sharmila, however, still stands strong amidst all criticism, because she is totally determined to achieve her goal.
She is truly a source of inspiration for women from all walks of life. She is inspiring millions of women to not to take being a woman as a curse. She is inspiring Indian women achievers to remain determined come what may. She is truly mothering the future Indian women inspirational stories and success stories of women entrepreneurs.
We, as ordinary citizens of this country, can only draw inspiration and salute her.