Tathagata Bhattacharya is Editor, Special Editions, at Network 18. Having worked for well over 10 years with leading national and international media organisations, he is as enthused by newsbreaks and analyses as he is by single malts, Jazz and military aviation. You may come across this man listening to John Coltrane or reading Yasar Kemal on some obscure Himalayan tract though work pressure reduces the statistical probability of such a chance encounter.
Ripley's inclusion of Irom Sharmila is nauseating
Posted on: 12:56 PM IST May 10, 2012 IST
The fact that Irom Chanu Sharmila's fast for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur has joined Ripley's odditorium will leave many nauseous. The Iron Lady of Manipur, who has refused food for more than 10 years to protest one of the most draconian acts to be enforced on her home state, has been clubbed together with '3 feet, 5 inches of unbelievable upper body strength', 'frozen bodies waiting to be revived in the future', 'Man saws off own foot to continue receiving jobless benefits', 'Bailey the buffalo the world's largest domestic pet' and the famous 'skydiving dog'.
What many may find more astounding is that supporters of Irom, under the banner of Just Peace Foundation (JPF), had reportedly written to researchers at the US-based Ripley's franchise themselves, requesting them to include her case in their list of unusual and unbelievable feats. "They have replied saying they have featured her story," the Press Trust of India quoted JPF's Kshetrimayum Onil.
The PTI report also quotes Irom's own brother Irom Singhajit who has said, "We hope that more people will listen to our demands now."
The Ripley's website on its homepage says: 'Do you have something "weird" to share with us? Do you own something "unusual" that you'd like to sell? Do you need help with one of our attractions or any other general inquiries?' How an inclusion in Ripley's can help farther the cause of repeal of AFSPA is beyond sensible logic.
Famous for highlighting people or animals with unique organs, gross habits or stunted growth, the Ripley's inclusion does not glorify Irom's struggle. It ridicules it. And to many like me, it comes across as something that is obnoxious and in utter bad taste.