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'Iron Lady' Irom Sharmila's 1000 word poem

Iron Lady Irom Sharmilas 1000 word poem

A 1000-word "very long" poem, penned by Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast for the past 12 years to protest against what she calls repressive laws allowing widespread human rights abuses, forms part of a new book on the activist from Manipur.

Titled "Birth" the poem concludes "Iron Irom Two Journeys - Where the Abnormal is Normal," a book written by author and documentary filmmaker Minnie Vaid and published by Rajpal and Sons.

The book is based on the life of Irom Sharmila, on factors that triggered the now 40-year-old-activist to began a total hunger strike, without food or water since November 4, 2004 against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

"She was 28-years-old at that time and holds the unenviable record of being the longest 'hunger striker' anywhere in the world till date," writes Miinie Vaid from Manipur. The book also contains interviews of her close family members and those who have helped her over the past 12 years.

Sharmila was a "sensitive youngster deeply interested in society and human beings," says a foreword written by Deepti Mehrotra who has authored two books on the Manipuri activist.

"I will write a poem, a very long poem. it will be a poem of one thousand lines. I will write about society. I will write about my experiences since my childhood. I will write about what I have seen," Sharmila told Deepti while she was in Delhi and in solitary confinement after being arrested for a fast unto death in the year 2006.

Six weeks after returning from Delhi, Sharmila was ready with the poem "Birth"written in "neat lettering in the Bengali script that she had learnt in school."

"Lonely as she may be in her confinement the poet in her cannot be kept restrained. She has written a long poem - a narrative poem giving an account of her visions," says Tayenjam Bijoykumar Singh, who has translated the poem into English.

"Her lines don't reflect remotely the reason of her fast. She has painstakingly painted a picture of an ideal world where men can live as friends.

"Characters of different personalities as she sees in the preset day society are sketched with meticulous care. If being poor is a crime then one, who fights for human justice and justice is a criminal... She has done a comparative study of two persons, one an indolent and the other a hardworking one," writes Singh.

Sharmila had begun her fast after an Assam Rifles battalion had allegedly killed 10 civilians in village Malom near Imphal in November, 2000.

She was arrested three days later and ever since then she has been force fed through a tube in her nose. Dunned the 'Iron Lady' by her supporters, Sharmila's non-violent resistance has become a nucleus for collective protest against AFSPA, which allows security men to even kill a person on suspicion without the fear of facing a trial in court.

Meanwhile in the new book, author Minnie writes, "The one towering influence in her life, one that remained an inspiration through all her actions, was an illiterate woman with extraordinary willpower- Sharmila's dadi (paternal grandmother)."

"Today if I am inspired my our dadi, a woman of great resolve, active in social movements including the Nupi Lal, the Manipuri woman's war in 1939," Singhajit, the brother of Sharmila is quoted as saying.

The book also contains an interview of Sharmila at the Magistrate's court in Imphal.

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