Don’t go on a hunger strike if you are a woman

Of all the techniques of protest that have come and gone, starving yourself is one of the most ridiculous ones. Gandhi-enthusiasts may now pelt stones at me in their non-violent way, but this is an infantile way of getting your way. And if you don’t have a Y-chromosome, you might as well forget about it. Look at Irom Sharmila, for example. Fasting since 2000, she has achieved nothing other than occasional admiration from the media and accusations of suicide. For which, she’ll be appearing in court in December 19, 2013.

Even though her techniques are exactly the kind to cause mass excitement, she has two major shortcomings. One, she isn’t an aged man and two, she is from the North-east.

When Anna Hazare decided to go hungry, it took no time for the media and public to gather around him, so that he could rescue them from corruption by throwing a temper tantrum. No one dared to accuse him of attempting suicide because he was fighting for the greater good, wasn’t he? Also, there were overzealous mobs walking all over the place, ready to cause a stampede on anyone who opposed. Let’s not even get started about the number of suicidal attempts by Mohandas Gandhi.

Why we would want to put so much faith in people who are clearly delusional due to their primary motive of hunger not being met, is beyond my understanding.

But hey, they were grown men who clearly work for our welfare. And people actually know the names of the states that they come from. But a woman from Manipur does not require her demands to be met. It’s nice that she’s received all these awards, and she says Gandhi is her idol, but she’s probably just anorexic. Β 

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13 thoughts on “Don’t go on a hunger strike if you are a woman

  1. While the “she is from the north-east” reasoning is spot on, I don’t agree with the “she is a woman” reasoning here. You need to look at both the cases objectively and the factors that contributed to the hype of Anna movement.

    In case of Irom, she was fighting against the Armed Forces Act. Now people suffering due to this act is limited only in the special states of the North East and J&K. But you know what? Most people are not ready to listen anything against our armed forces, because we are emotional-gullible-morinic patriots.

    Anna, on the other hand had many-many things going on for him. First, he was in the anti-corruption movement since 2 decades if I am not wrong. Secondly, although you are referring to the hunger strike of 2011, not many know that he had a hunger strike in 2003 as well, but not many know about it. So what changed? IMO, the following:

    1. Timing – He timed it really well right after CWG and 2G

    2. Media – CWG corruption and 2G corruption were very well covered by the media. In fact to the point of being irritating, so how could they not cover an old gandhi-looking man fasting for people?

    3. Political Presence – He has been in the circuit for quite some time. The fact that he was in the army as a soldier is very well known (see the armed forces obsession? I mean “NaMo used to sell tea to army so he is the saviour of the nation” is apparently a valid argument).

    4. Central Government target – Unlike 2003 strike, which was against state officials, Anna decided to run after the big fish.

    On the other hand, Irom is a not-so-well-known (Apart from pseudo intellectuals and quizzers) figure who wanted to fight against the atrocities faced by the local people by the Armed Forces, wouldn’t get the media attention because they know it is not a juicy story. Not because she was a woman.

    Sorry for the huge comment, just felt like giving balance to your arguement.

    • Yes you’re right. Especially about the armed forces obsession, I hadn’t thought about it that way.
      But she was 28 when she began her fast, and I cannot imagine a 28 year old woman getting as much coverage even if she picked a more mainstream cause. But that’s more ageist than sexist.
      And thanks for the comment, the size is excusable when it makes sense πŸ™‚

      • But I still think that it’s unfair that she has to appear in court for attempted suicide, when Hazare was portrayed as a hero (even though he never fasted as long as her in both accounts). The judiciary should not be guided by popular opinion.

      • I think you have a good hypothesis when you say 28 year old woman will not get as much coverage if she picks up a mainstream cause.

        But there are two instances when “the country woke up” (Pardon my cynicism, the country never *really* woke up) in response to horrendous crimes against woman. Jessica Lal and the Delhi case victim. To be extremely honest, no cause is mainstream in our country till the media decides “Ok, lets hype the shit out of this”.

        Another thing to observe here is there are women who have resorted to vigilantism and got their due space in mainstream media (Of course not as long as Anna) – Gulabi Gang, Usha Narayane and Phoolan Devi. All being dubbed as the “new indian women”, “light of hope” and “MAA DURGA JAAG GAYI HAI” in the mainstream media.

        So it can be an interesting study to see, maybe the people of our country like it when a women becomes a vigilante and men starve like wusses to get their justice.

      • Regarding the trial for suicide point, of course its unfair! But Anna has a larger support, anything the government does against him is going to bite them in the next election.

        Irom doesn’t pose a polticial threat, in fact she doesn’t pose a threat at all. It’s sad, very sad.

  2. Irom Sharmila is not on a hunger strike. That’s a myth. Her condition is called force-feeding by a tube. She is not out to bring social change. She refuses to live in a world in which brutality goes by the name “law.” The brutality of the armed forces and afspa is the most mainstream in the northeast of india and j&k. Of course. those places aren’t so mainstream to our middle-class concerns.

    • Oh ok. I stand corrected. But isn’t refusing to live in a world where law can be misused an appeal to social change?
      It’s disturbing, this apathy towards anything that doesn’t directly concern us.

  3. I don’t know if it’s an appeal to social change. That’s what the organizations surrounding Irom Sharmila make of it, and I guess that’s what we should make of it too. I only want to highlight that there is an abyss between the fake hazare-type of “social change” and genuine disgust.

    To sound a little constructive, I think a lot will come out of people asserting their basics: right to marry out of will, to walk freely at night-time, disregarding caste/class, disregard of gender-norms in employment. Not to say that protest demonstrations are out of place, but their schooling will be done when these basics are tested and their results found.

  4. You also misunderstand the court case. She was kept under an illegal isolation order for many years even after the NHRC ruled it a form of mental and emotional torture. One of the reasons for media interest was that she was presented in Delhi in March 2013. Trials are not bad things. They give people the right to put up a defence. She wasn’t presented in December nor in January 2014 nor March 2014. They don’t want the embarrassment before the elections. Another problem with your understanding is you don’t understand the Mahatma Gandhi. it’s free country he would have been among the first to want you to speak freely. But to young Indians the 1920s and 30s when he and others were trying to liberate India is ancient history. Satyagraha is to do with developing loving kindness. I mention this again because in her last letter. The isolation order is de facto again in force. There are many scribes who see her most are hypocrites but as you say few mainland indians care about Sharmila or Manipur. I am surprised at how many still confuse it with Manipal in Mangalore. The last comment was about general women’s rights which don’t exist in Manipur either. People prefer the myth of brave manipur meira paibees and women’s wars. Her brother made a written death threat against Sharmila the local press were bought off or intimidated from reporting and the rest of India women like you do not think honor killing threats are anything more than a domestic problem which should not be aired publicly. No Indian NGO, No Indian woman has condemned these threats. The security forces continue to intimidate anyone in Manipur who might stand beside Sharmila. I don’t know if the satyagraha will succeed. If India has oppressive laws against women and homosexuals it’s because ordinary indians don’t care or don’t want to know. Maybe Gandhi-ji was completely wrong and misguided. I believe Aurobindo was a better theorist but if you don’t understand or care to read Gandhi-ji’s words you are never going to get your head around Sri Aurobindo. And today’s modern Indian looks to the West not just for technology but wisdom culture and shopping malls. The main cure to my otherwise depressed view of India’s future is that I am well past the 2/3 stage of my life and it won’t be long now. Another thing Westerners misunderstand about reincarnation. They seem to think its good coz they will have another chance at puberty and shopping malls. Whereas the theory was supposed to refer to how life is suffering and the cure is not to end karma and no longer to be reborn. I don’t think those who are spiritual have any place in modern India. The good news is change comes from purely materialistic fascist and human hating ideologies also. The AFSPA will be removed once those who want to make money work out more can be made by other means. It is sad you have no understanding at all of what satyagraha meant. But you aren’t the first to put down Gandhi-ji as a simpleton. Tagore was more sensitive and Aurobindo more eloquent. At least they understood what he was trying to do.

    • Hi Leonmyshkin,

      Would you allow me to refer to you as ‘author’ since I don’t know your gender and would not want to cause any confusion on that account. I just wanted to say how I do agree with you on a lot of aspects – yes, our generation is most certainly lacking in a greater understand of Gandhi’s work, much like we are terrible at Tagore’s poetry and Aurobindo’s philosophy. I do hope that we can expand our understanding of these great men and perhaps, if you would allow the discretion, a few great women too? πŸ™‚ If you would permit me, please, I would also like to critique your comment from what I understand from this blogpost –

      (a) Dare I say the blogpost would never refer to Gandhi as a simpleton! He was quite the opposite now, wasn’t he? He has done more for this country than perhaps generations of Indians would ever be able to achieve in one lifetime. He was a great man. Period. There is no critiquing his achievements for there are none who could claim to be instrumental in getting a country its freedom after 200 years of foreign rule. He was an inspiration and my personal hero,

      Yet, in his goal to achieve the greater good he did in fact knowingly/unknowingly cause his family a great deal of distress. He did deny his wife his husbandly duties and force his entire family to be the cause of constant scrutiny without their consent. He did not ask them whether they wanted to be put forward in a position and have millions of men and women put them on a pedestal. He gave them little choice and little attention. Yet, Kasturba Gandhi, the phenomenal woman that she was, stood by this man like his rock and supported any and every decision he ever made.

      None of the above makes him a Villain in my eyes. I will repeat for your benefit that Gandhi will forever be my intellectual hero. Yet, I do reserve the right to not think of him as my god and if he were still alive he would welcome the healthy criticism.

      Much like the writer of this blog has never called him a victim but simple stated that she does not believe hunger strike, a method popularised by Gandhi’s struggle, is perhaps the perfect means of protest for her Gender too.

      She most certainly does not need a fantastic understanding of Gandhi to know most about hunger strikes or the female gender.

      (b) The writer of this blog has not for once said that trials are bad! Mr dear, Author, I must admit as little faith as I have in the justice system, even I will never be in a position to propose a world free of trials and judgement! This will simple never work!

      You are absolutely right, trials give the people a means to defend themselves in front of their peers and society.

      The blogpost simply asks – Why should Irom Sharmila have to defend herself and not Anna Hazare?

      What is the validity of asking this woman, who has used the exact same tactics as Gadhian Anna Hazare, to appear before court and tell them why in god’s name was she trying to commit suicide?

      The writer of this blog is trying to bring out the gender disparity in dispensing of justice. Irom Sharmila has used the same tactics as Mr. Hazare (who by the way has held the government at a figurative gunpoint and forced them to consider a flawed and unsustainable anti-corruption Bill despite them coming to the table to discuss it. Terrorist? Perhaps? Hero? Perhaps?) who was never asked to come to court and answer why he attempted suicide.

      Neither was a single member of the accused was held answerable from the Assam Rifles.

      (c) The author of this blogpost comes across as quite a strong feminist to me. Not someone who would stand by and watch custodial rape, rape of any kinds or Khap Panchayat justice dispensing happen without clawing her way in to help.

      Is the fact that she is writing about what a hopeless world it is where a woman using non-violence is treated so differently than a man using the same tactics, a testimony to her love for her gender?

      (d) I Disagree with you strongly, author, when you say that these archaic and dismal laws exist because we don’t care. These laws, my dear, exist because archaic men and women made them. Your little faith in our generation leaves me aghast.

      I tell you, my lovely author, if you were to find yourself during the LGBT protests recently or the longest protest against the Rapists of the Medical Student in the Capital, you would have been astonished to see the sheer number of people who want a change.

      Must like you and me, they too might not be able to see substantive change in their generation but they are not disheartened for they are fighting for a larger cause. Unlike the selfishness I see in your comment, these people are fighting for a better tomorrow for their generations to come.

      As I see delhi today, I fear raising my daughter here, but if I dont fight to change the laws or to change the way society thinks then of what use has my life been?

      I am from a selfie clicking generation yet every day I am willing to fight for my son/daughter who would have the right to be a homosexual freely and to fight and speak out with all their might against their rapists.

      That is the Gandhi in me and the Gandhi in the millions of people everyday who protest for a cause

      (e) Finally. my author, bear with me for one last point –

      SATYAGRAHA does not mean ‘to do with developing loving kindness’

      Satyagraha simply means ‘the insistence of truth’

      Something Mahatma Gandhi introduced to our country and Irom Sharmila has embodied in her struggle to make her world a better place.

      Allow me to say, and permit me my ignorance, but she is as much a Gandhian to me as perhaps Mahatma Gandhi

      Thank you for being so kind and reading through my ramblings.

  5. First you should allow the blog writer to speak for herself. But I am happy to read your ramblings and respond. There are always negative critiques of the dead. Jesus couldn’t swim. Mother Teresa was evil. The past is as unpredictable as the future. Some would fear to publish a critique of Gandhi-ji apart from Dalit writers. India is becoming a place where academic freedom and freedom of expression is continually challenged. One of the last books I sent to Sharmila was The Hindus an Alternative History by Wendy Doniger. When Professor Doniger heard that Sharmila was reading her book she agreed to send her a letter of support and the next book targetted for pulping because this is the India in which you bring up your young. I wasn’t translating satyagraha. It was something Sharmila had written me and I received her letter today, that I should not retaliate against what is currently being done to her but cultivate loving kindness. Maybe you do think highly of her. I have been corresponding with her for several years now. So I know what’s going on for her. And I know who she really is. She matters to me.

    The anti-rape protests would have given great hope if they had been sustained. The Supreme Court seemed to flip on homosexual rights and Parliament has yet to make up its mind. Are you not ashamed at how soon Delhi forgot. Once a year you’ll have a Nirbhaya day and your grandchildren will think it has something to do with Nehru’s pet cat.

    I don’t really want to get into a discussion on Gandhi-ji as interesting a writer you might be.

    But I would point out not only can the Assam Rifles officers who committed gang rape and murder in a conflict zone (prima facie a war crime) not be tried in any Indian Criminal Court. No Indian Soldier can under the protection of the AFSPA. They could today drag Sharmila in front of all the Supreme Court Justices gang rape and murder her and so long as they did so on sovereign liberated Indian Soil where AFSPA has been invoked they still couldn’t be put on trial. But the two Italian Marines who killed two South Indian fishermen in international waters can and will be put on trial at the Patiala. They can’t be put on trial in Kerala or Tamil Nadhu because they didn’t commit the crimes on sovereign Indian soil or within India’s territorial waters. So I hope that she will be presented for trial on the same day as the two Italian marines. Won’t need any analsysis the symbol would be transparent and the world press would be there for that day. Another reason they won’t send her.

    If you care for Sharmila I suggest you write and let her know. Her address remains Irom Sharmila Chanu, Human Rights Defender, Security Ward, Jawaharlal Nehru I M S, Porompat, Imphal East, Manipur 795005 India. The elections are upon India again. If you care about your country then do what you can for its betterment. Sharmila dedicates her life for that. It would be helpful if someone gave her some support. You have her address now perhaps you didn’t before. A letter is a small act of kindness. But given the renewed isolation orders placed upon her small works. Leon Myshkin is from the Dostoyevski novel. People do you differently on line if they think you are a man or a woman. Have you considered gender bending. It’s a lot easier to do than in real life you’d need heavy make-up and prosthetics. One way perhaps to see how the other half are routinely treated.

  6. I can be very selfish. Accept these two one from Sri Aurobindo which I first read in French (not all of it) http://intyoga.online.fr/uttaspch.htm I was in Pondicherry during the Nirbaya outrage, there have been many more since her. And this one apparently Tagore’s bangla is as foreign to Hindi speakers as Manipuri. But it’s fusion style. You can find more traditional versions if you want. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H7lXUNsJF2o if this site allows http links enjoy.

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