We take freedom so much for granted. We are free to move around, free to buy anything we want, free to interact with anyone we want … basically just free to live a reasonably decent life.

What must freedom mean to a woman in the burqa or the ghunghat who cannot speak to half the population? Or people in a authoritarian state who cannot congregate, meet or interact with others?

The thoughts came to mind when I met Bablu, a young Human Rights activist from Manipur. His introduction of himself started with his name, his organisation and straight away slipped into the story of Irom Sharmila, a poet and activist who has been on a hunger strike for the last 10 years against the excesses of the Indian Special Forces in the North East. The meaning of freedom changes completely when one hears about her.

What makes an Irom Sharmila do what she does? What drives one into such passion of resistance to injustice? Three cheers to Sharmila … may her fight continue and end in success. Read about her …

Fragrance of Peace
When life comes to its end
You, please transport
My lifeless body
Place it on the soil of Father Koubru
To reduce my dead body
To cinders amidst the flames
Chopping it with axe and spade
Fills my mind with revulsion
The outer cover is sure to dry out
Let it rot under the ground
Let it be of some use to future generations
Let it transform into ore in the mine
I’ll spread the fragrance of peace
From Kanglei, my birthplace
In the ages to come
It will spread all over the world.

-lrom Sharmila


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