Tuesday, February 23, 2016

#BookReview: Mother, Where's My Country?: Looking for Light in the Darkness of Manipur by Anubha Bhonsle

On the jacket:

In her powerful, poignant book—one of the best non-fiction works from India in recent years—Anubha Bhonsle examines the tangled and tragic history of Manipur, and of much of India’s North East. Through the story of Irom Sharmila—on a protest fast since 2000—and many others who have fallen victim to violence or despair or stood up to fight for peace and justice, she shows us an entire society ravaged by insurgency and counter-insurgency operations, corruption and ethnic rivalries. Drawing upon extensive interviews with personnel of the Indian army and intelligence agencies, politicians and bureaucrats, leaders of insurgent groups, Irom Sharmila and her family and ordinary people across Manipur, Anubha Bhonsle has produced a compelling and necessary book on the North East, the Indian state, identity politics and the enormous human cost of conflict.


I have weeped throughout while reading this book, right from page one. I still am. So pardon me if my review is a little haphazard. Ideally, here is when you close this window to go buy the book to read, but if you need more convincing, let me try.

Going by the condition of the country, everyone has an opinion now. Opinions are varied and rigid. Amongst it all, there are the states in north east India, fighting their own wars which almost all of us are completely unaware of. Mother, Where's My Country?: Looking for Light in the Darkness of Manipur is Bhonsle's account of Irom Sharmila's fight against AFSPA. All through reading the book I've had mutiple emotions but the strongest where awe for the author. The book begins with an unidentified girl trying to talk about her rape, but not really succeeding in. The girl them recounts Irom Sharmila's story which is gory, heart wrenching, inspiring as well as touching. 

In a country where the entire mainland is living a more or less free and independent life, how and why are people in some states not living the same lives? Such questions don't cross our minds because we really don't know what the real deal is. Yes, we hear that she is on fast until death and how the government is reacting to that. But we know nothing about the life she is leading, or the people she is fighting for are. We have no clue what our army is doing to them or what the militant groups are. We just don't have any idea. Activists are not very loved people, here in India, more so when they are women. Because, the first way to silence them, is of course by raping them. Unfortunately (rather, fortunately), some women are stronger than the barbaric around them. Today, when there are so many opinions floating around about the incident with another activist from yet another forgotten part of the country, Sori Soni, this books comes more as a jolt, reminding us what we are conveniently missing.

I highly recommend this book, especially now. Bhonsle is said to have interviewed more than hundred people for this book and to get to talk to Irom Sharmila, it took more than eight years, for they could talk only when she was out of the jail. The narration and events are one sided and while I didn't particularly feel the need to know the 'other' side of the story, you might.

Rating: ****.5/5

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