Controlling Kashmiris through aggression won’t switch them toward India: Irom Sharmila

Irom Chanu Sharmila, the civil rights and political activist, Wednesday said controlling Kashmiris through agression would not switch them toward India.
“Government of India needs to realise that by aggression and by building infrastructure, hearts were not connecting,” she said in an interview to Rising Kashmir here.
Sharmila said killing troops and paramilitary forces was not the way forward for Kashmiris.
“The security forces, who are in large numbers, isn’t the way forward for Kashmiris fighting oppression and brutalities committed under the garb of Armed Forces Special Powers Act,” she said.
Sharmila said India had the second-largest army in the world and killing them with a gun was difficult.
“Kashmiris need to unite with a sense of commitment for fighting against the draconian laws in a peaceful manner,” she said. “In non-violence, there is the voice of God.”
Sharmila says Chief Minster Mehbooba Mufti, who she met on Monday, agreed on the need of repealing the AFSPA and other draconian laws from the State.
She says the greatest role model for Kashmir to fight the draconian laws was to practise non-violence as killing in the name of religion do not earn anything.
“Islam is a religion of peace and killing someone and then brandishing it as Islamist fight isn’t the way to fight oppression,” Sharmila says.
Referring to an anecdote of her young days when army personnel in Manipur had beaten up a rickshaw puller just for fun in front of her eyes, she says the anger amongst the youth in the Valley was reminiscent of the anger in the eyes of the rickshaw puller of Manipur.
“University students in Kashmir welcomed me and were appreciative of my struggle but then they won’t subscribe to my form of resistance in one go,” Sharmila says while divulging her plans to come to Kashmir frequently after she wraps up her first visit.
She says the varsity students seemed fearless to her while expressing their views on Kashmir.
“They aren’t afraid of getting arrested and their anger is a symbol of resistance here,” Sharmila says.
She says the choked up student politics and non-availability of student unions have played a crucial role in the anger generating among the youth.
Sharmila says the Indian people were more empathetic toward the case of repealing of AFSPA from Manipur than in Jammu Kashmir.
“When I talk of repealing AFSPA in J&K, people in mainland India brand every Kashmiri as a terrorist,” she says. “They even abuse me for what they say for supporting terrorists.”
Sharmila says even the university students in India hold the same pre-conceived notion about the Valley.
“Unfortunately in India of today, if one supports the Congress, he or she is called an anti-national while if one supports the Bharatiya Janata Party he or she is branded an anti-democrat,” she says.
Sharmila says it was not just the “oppression” of the Indian Army which led her to start a fast for repealing AFSPA but the enjoyment and fun they derived in brutalities they committed on unarmed civilians.
She says her Kashmir plan was to meet everybody and understand Kashmir and its problems.
“I will decide on what role, if any, I can play here for the common oppressed people,” Sharmila says.
She says she has plans to meet the Hurriyat and other separatist organisations along with mainstream parties and the common folks, particularly the youth.
On her contesting elections and losing, Sharmila says she was young in 2000 when she began the fast.
“That was a strategy I thought would work,” she says. “Okram Ibobi Singh, the ex-Chief Minister of the state since 2002 to 2017 was a guardian figure but that too was an illusion.”
Sharmila says the responsibility was put on her young shoulders with no other form of tangible support.
She says back in 2000, a lot of people had asked her not to go on a hunger strike and same was the case when she broke the fast to contest elections.
“I faced a lot of pressure but then the motive of my fight remains the same and the nature of my resistance also remains peaceful,” Sharmila says.
She says since her visit to the Valley, she stumbled upon a case of 40 orphans from Beerwah assembly constituency who had been fighting for due compensation from the Army.
“I took up their case with the CM and the civil society also needs to push in,” Sharmila says. “I want to meet the widows, orphans, pellet victims and people affected by this protracted conflict.”
She says she wants to hear their struggle and how their lives changed after facing “brutal oppression”.
“I want to hear how they are dealing with the feeling of un-belongingness,” Sharmila says.
On the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, Sharmila while talking of her interest to meet them, says she heard stories of how Kashmiri Muslims helped the minority Pandits and Sikh community during the 2014 floods.
She says she wants to understand the nature of J&K’s economy because in Manipur the main reason behind AFSPA staying on was that the Army and the State government were direct beneficiaries of the humongous budget allocation for the defence sector.
“That can be the case here and I want to understand that also,” Sharmila says.
Interestingly, her trip to the Valley has been organised by Sarhad Bhavan, an NGO that also organises programmes for the Army.
Sharmila plans to meet the former chief minister and National Conference vice president Omar Abdullah along with certain rights groups who have been documenting human rights abuses here.
Besides th CM, she has already met Chairperson of State Commission for Women, Nayeema Ahmad Mehjoor and a group of orphans and varsity students.
Sharmila began her fast on 5 November 2000 till 9 August 2016, spanning a total of 16 years.
She refused food and water for more than 500 weeks leading to her being called as ‘Iron Lady’ or ‘Mengoubi’ (The fair one).
Her fast was triggered when the Assam Rifles shot dead 10 civilians in Malom, a town in Imphal, waiting for a bus.
Sharmila, who was 28 then broke her fast at the age of 44 in 2016 when she launched her political party, Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance on which she contested the election against the ex-chief minister of Manipur Okram Ibobi Singh.
Subsequently, Sharmila lost the polls by garnering just 90 votes against Singh’s 18,649 votes.