Manipur Assembly Election 2017 have come out with a shocking news that the human rights activists Irom Sharmila got only 90 votes. She observed 16 years of hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Protection) Act enforcement in the State. Section 4 of the act gives special powers to army officers in disturbed area to shoot (even if it kills) any individual who violates law / or is suspected to violate law etc. The only condition is that the officer has to give warning before opening fire. The act allows the army to arrest anybody without a warrant, and carry out searches without consent.
The Acts have received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement. Critics say that the law allows security forces to get away with no end of brutality. Reports from Manipur speak many stories of misusing the act to kill local people and unveiled many brutal rapes cases which veiled brilliantly under the protection of this act. This was the situation which forced Irom to observe hunger strike for about 16 years with a call to take back the AFSPA from Manipur.
The Manipur election results came up with the news that for the 5840 days long hunger strike she observed for the human rights of Manipuri people, they gave just 90 votes. She was contesting against Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi who got 18,649 votes. More people than those whoe casted their votes to Sharmila had voted NOTA in the election . It amounts to 143 people in the constituency.
Sharmila had said that money and muscle power were used in the election by other parties to win. A door-to-door campaign, speaking out against corruption, domestic violence and human rights violations, largely addressing an audience of women by her party, People’s Resurgence Justice Alliance was not enough to defeat the impressive support which Ibobi commanded in the Thoubal constituency. Ibobi won the seat after defeating BJP candidate L. Basant Singh by 10,400 votes.
Being a woman may also have been a factor for her defeat. Among the 268 candidates in these elections, there were only ten women candidates. The demonstrated national parties like the BJP and Congress brought forward only two women candidates each. This shows a clear signal of absence of women in the Manipuri politics. It also reveals that the politics of Manipur is still a man business.
This election result might have spoiled the hope of people’s movements all over the country. The defeat of Irom need to be seriously analysed with the less impacted dalit movements in Maharashtra which triggered discussions all over the country. The election results revealed the saffron sanghs swapped over a secular map. This reveals a fact that to counter act the evils of governance in a democratic country, people’s movements need to have a strong political apex.