You don’t have to represent religion to stand for the power of belief. Sharmila Irom demonstrates you can do it out of faith in democracy, in humanity, in peace.
She’s an icon of public resistance like none other in human history: a woman who undertook an epic 16-year hunger strike to fight – peacefully – against what she believes are excesses against the people of Manipur under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
And we were honoured and humbled that Sharmila flew to Delhi to talk to Algebra members last September – this was her first public interaction since she ended her fast on August 9, 2016 – and she spoke with immeasurable grace about hunger, about captivity, about why she finally broke her fast, and about how becoming a ‘symbol’ has cost her her humanity.
It is impossible for us in Delhi to imagine what the Manipur fight looks and feels like on the ground: bloodshed in broad daylight, young men and women who live at war in a country ostensibly at peace. To explain this fight was another incredible young man, Babloo Loitongbam, who after years of struggle succeeded last year in getting the Supreme Court – with the help of stellar human rights lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who joined him on stage – to announce that all 1,528 ‘encounters’ in Manipur would be investigated.
Algebra, the Arts & Ideas Club brings together a fellowship of people who believe great cities are built not just on infrastructure but a life of the mind; who understand robust and liberal societies need the oxygen of great conversation and nuanced thinking.
At a time when we are increasingly surrounded by rage and noise, Algebra is a live and continuous space for people to come together for a genuine exchange of ideas and exposure to issues; where new seeds could be sparked, fresh perspectives formed, and intelligent connections made.
Algebra – the Arts and Ideas Club is designed to host almost 35 engagements over the year with topline thinkers and practitioners from almost every discipline that impacts human affairs: politics, economy, environment, spirituality, cinema, medicine, science, technology, music, media, literature, the arts, sports, people’s movements, et al.