Civil rights champion, political activist and poet Irom Chanu Sharmila may have lost in the recent Manipur Legislative Assembly elections. But all is not lost. Perhaps her defeat was expected, but then who said there are no gains in losses?
She may have stepped away from the politics of polls, but her politics of resistance will live on. Like subterranean water – not visible, nonetheless there – a deep aquifer of silent energy, quietly influencing life above ground. The very fact that she did what she did over 16 years and even afterwards will surely continue to influence our beliefs and actions about what is possible when we are compelled to resist oppression with all that we have – our body, our mind, our ‘self’.
The winners may think they can take it all, but those who believe in incremental change needn’t be drawn into the cycle of wins and losses. And I found at least a few such instances in a recent trip to Manipur itself. One was information on transgender participation in the Manipur Legislative Assembly polls. This was not in terms of transgender people standing for elections, not even demanding inclusion of transgender issues in election manifestos, but at a much more grassroots level.
A small number of queer activists seemed to be engaged in advocating with political parties at the block and village level to keep their concerns in mind – concerns around discrimination and security in the immediate social environment, and simply more and more transgender individuals being able to cast their vote. Some social workers I spoke to agreed that the last mentioned indeed seemed to be happening.
To my mind these efforts are what incremental change is about and they matter as much as policy level advocacy that takes much longer to bear fruit. Let us not forget to celebrate these nuts and bolts of better days to come!