| by Gajalakshmi Paramasivam

( August 25, 2014, Melbourne, Sri Lanka Guardian) It is Jaffna Nallur Festival time and I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email with pictures of Nallur Chariot Festival - from a Christian who is anti-superstitious practices of non-Christian religions. I read beyond the outer expressions of this person and knew that he was connected to my mind through his faith in Christ. If Murugan is God to me and Christ is God to my friend – then God is the Common basis of our beliefs through diverse forms. So long as we look beyond the surface to connect to that ‘Common’ person – we would take care of each other and not hurt each other.

Often there are conflicts due to cultural differences. A culture is in essence the common order in which the brains work and activate the conduct of a group of person/s. This order would vary between groups and at times at the surface the two may seem to be opposed to each other. For example – Hindus by culture eliminate alcohol in Temple food whereas Christians include wine as part of the sacred ceremony. Where majority in a group are surface readers – and one culture within that group has the power of majority – there is bound to be unjust discrimination. Hence laws against discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability etc. where there is evidence of oppression by majority culture. Caste based discrimination is also unjust when it is not work based. One needs to be careful in not eliminating caste based or even gender and disability based discrimination in communities where there has been strong separation of duties between the two sides as per system structures. Natural separations based on the type of work performed are healthy because they promote diversity.

Thoughts along these lines were keeping my mind busy, when I started reading the Sri Lanka Guardian article ‘Irom Sharmila in Time of Legal Fiction’ by Mayur Suresh. As I read through, I identified with many aspects of the ‘Protest’ by Ms Irom Sharmila as features in common with my Peaceful assembly at the University of New South Wales, Australia – especially in terms of Police action. The Police did not think I was violent but they had to remove me from the University as per their mind that wanted to ‘show’ more than to do their duty by law. The reporter states in the case of Ms Irom Sharmila - ‘Guneshwar Sharma, a session judge in Manipur found that there was not enough evidence brought by the police against Irom Sharmila to even warrant a trial against her for the charge of an ‘attempt to commit suicide. The judgment records the underhanded way in which the Manipuri police have dealt with Irom Sharmila’s fast. She was first arrested under s. 309 of the Indian Penal Code (which punishes an attempt to commit suicide with a prison term of up to 1 year) in 2000 when she began her strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The police then took her into custody and began to force feed her via a nasal tube. After the completion of 1 year, the police had to release her – since that is the maximum punishment for an offence under s. 309. Once released, she would continue her fast once again. The police then would wait 24 hours and arrest her again under S. 309. The police continued this pattern for 14 more years with no trial being conducted in any of these FIR’s. As if to commemorate each of the 15 years that she has been on a fast demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Manipur police have annually filed FIR’s against her for purported attempts to commit suicide.’

During the four times I assembled, I did not consciously plan. It was an extension of my response to the actions / negligence of duty by the University Administration. But later, I searched within to identify with the reasoning – as it would have been if I had consciously planned the Peaceful Assembly. In both our cases – we followed Gandhi in our cultural expressions of our responses. But after I was arrested I was taken to Court where I felt it was my duty to fight through the legislation under which I was arrested. Now I feel that this course of action was necessary for me to connect to the minds of our Australian ancestors to feel a sense of belonging with Australians much older than the current ones who arrested me in haste. During my preparation to represent myself I prayed to my Australian ancestors of 1901 – who gave us the Inclosed Lands Protection Act 1901 . I was thus connecting to the essence of their work – which to me means that I connect to their minds as if they are present here and now. I was the medium through whom their minds were influencing outcomes. The parallel of that for Ms Irom Sharmila ought to have been the architects of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA)

It is interesting that Reporter Mayur Suresh uses the description ‘Legal Fiction’. That to my mind describes laws that are not based on belief. To believe - the Australian Police arresting me ought to have done the work from zero base and naturally be conscious of value and meaning of the Legislation under which they arrested me and/or ought to have connected to the architects of the Legislation implemented back in 1901. With that natural belief – they ought to have known that I had caused harm to someone, some place, some institution and/or some lawful right of a particular person or Australians in common and they ought to have felt independently that the most appropriate to measure this was the particular legislation they chose. That did not happen. They were subjectively influenced by the University staff – and hence I brought action against them for unlawful arrest. The legislation through which I initiated action was Racial Discrimination Act 1975. That was the most appropriate legislation as per the Police within me. In a democracy – the Police would recognize the right of the citizen to police them as much the Police in uniform is policing the citizen concerned. Likewise Judges. Equal Opportunity laws are a myth / fiction to many Australians in powerful positions.

I released myself from prison by signing conditional bail that I would not enter the University of New South Wales. That to me was the closure of the Protest Action – the parallel of Ms Sharmila’s fast. I had to do it independent of others – knowing the effects/outcomes and their value to society in common as per the path taken by me or closed by me. I did so after spending time with a lady who said she had been enforced with medication for alleged mental disorder. The previous night I was also threatened with enforced medication by a doctor who to my mind did not believe in medical service. That lady (the fellow prisoner) – a Catholic - read the Bible in her prison cell and advised me on Mother’s day to leave. I took that as advice from Our Lady to whom I pray regularly. Later I helped the lady bring herself out of the prison. May be that was one of the reasons I needed to have the experience. I took from the outcomes I identified with – that my Peaceful Assembly was for a just cause – including to help this lady release herself from prison – by using my mind.

As per Wikipedia report ‘On 2 November 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop. The incident, known as the "Malom Massacre", was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state. The victims included Leisangbam Ibetombi, a 62-year old woman, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. Sharmila, who was 28 at the time, began to fast in protest of the killing, taking neither food nor water. As her brother Irom Singhajit Singh recalled, "It was a Thursday. Sharmila used to fast on Thursdays since she was a child. That day she was fasting too. She has just continued with her fast. "Three days after she began her strike, she was arrested by the police and charged with an "attempt to commit suicide", which is unlawful under the Indian Penal Code (IPC), and was later transferred to judicial custody. Her health deteriorated rapidly, and nasogastric intubation was forced on her in order to keep her alive while under arrest.’

Reading the above, I am not able to fully identify with the actions of Ms Irom Sharmila through my own purpose. Fasting is a common Hindu practice which strengthens the mind by balancing the pleasure of food and taking the enjoyment to higher level. It helps meditate but if we seek to be active – it becomes counter-productive. One who fasts for meditative purposes – would have the strength of mind to bring about closure once one feels that the issue is being taken care of by the Higher Powers. Otherwise it becomes reverse enforcement – by letting the armed forces in the mind kill the body of the protestor.

As per Hindu Bhaghavath Geetha if one is born in a particular group that has the duty to protect including through arms – that person has to fight irrespective of who is on the other side. What type of weapons we use – are determined by the group we officially belong to. In my case – as a migrant citizen – that weapon was Racial Discrimination Act 1975 which I had consciously practiced by bringing action against those of majority race with power to distribute benefits. Migrants who remained passive are as guilty as the ones who reported me to the Police and the Police who arrested me. Once an issue comes beyond family and institution – the fighter has the responsibility to see the opposition as the other side of the issue and not be influenced by physical and mind connections of the subjects prior to the battle.

Based on the claim that Ms Irom Sharmila is seeking the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) the protest ought to have been made in the Parliament and that too only to the extent of protecting her investment in civil rights through actual work. The rest ought to have been to the Divine Powers to influence through Universal Energies quietly developed. Book knowledge needs to be challenged through the pen. This fast seems to be way beyond that entitlement and to my mind is in breach of our natural duty to preserve our bodies to be functional towards realizing the higher values of Oneness with others. This is also the risk with some young Human Rights workers.

To me therefore in essence Ms Irom Sharmila is the parallel of Suicide Bombers who die to attack. Suicide Bombers become the media for the mind of their masters who do not have the right to ask their followers to do what they themselves could but don’t. To bid the lower ranks to do so amounts to slavery. Counselors who worked closely with those who were trained to be suicide bombers in the Sri Lankan war – found them to be mentally ill when they were in civil positions. The outer order changed but within the minds of these combatants the child whose mind was taken over by the leader became active – except that the leader was no longer to be seen and they were left to lead themselves.

Protest Fasting also amounts to suicide attack once it goes beyond one’s duty to the self. It disturbs the ‘commonness’ value of Sovereignty.

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