With her power-packed performance, Ojas S.V. creates awareness on the travails of people in Manipur

Fighting for the cause of others in this materialistic world is a challenging task and Ojas Suniti Vinay, a young theatre artiste from Pune, loves to take it on.

She spreads the message of the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur', Irom Chanu Sharmila, through her English-Hindi mono play, ‘Ley Mashalein' (Take the torch). Sharmila is on an indefinite hunger strike for 10 years now demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 in Manipur.

It is an adaptation of ‘Meira Paibi' (Women bearing torches), a drama written by Malayalam playwright Civic Chandran. She presents vignettes of Manipur's past and present life in the 40-minute skit.

Social activism runs deep in her blood as her family members too are involved in many movements including the National Alliance of People's Movement, Anti Lavasa Movement and Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Ojas came to know about the plight of people in North-Eastern States from her friends and after reading stories her admiration for Sharmila increased manifold. She decided to take up the mantle when she met Civic Chandran and short story writer Sarah Joseph at a peace march organised in commemoration of the centenary celebrations of the ‘Hindu Swaraj' a book written by Mahatma Gandhi.

“They enlightened me on the cause of Irom Sharmila and invited persons to spread the message across the nation. As I am a supporter of many progressive movements, I naturally came forward to take up this cause. My passion for theatre also helped me to secure this opportunity to carry forward the message to our brethren,” she says.

In a series of splendid enactments, she brings to light the essence of issues plaguing the State. . She depicts Sharmila's life and how Manipur turned the other way round from a colourful and peaceful State to streets filled with blood. “I read a lot about Manipur to understand their culture. I was shocked to find little reference to North-Eastern States in our history books,” she shares.

A Post Graduate in bio-diversity, theatre has been part of her life for a long time. With her performances, she raises lot of doubts in the minds of spectators about marginalisation of North-Eastern States. “We feel proud to be in the land of Gandhi and boast ourselves as peace-loving and non-violent nation, conveniently forgetting the atrocities committed by Army in the North-East. . It needs collective effort to persuade Government to end this problem,” she rues.

On her journey to garner support , she has covered nine States including Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, West Bengal, Assam, Manipur, Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. She now plans to visit Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat next month. She has also organised a signature campaign supporting the cause.

Though her play ends with a ray of hope in tune with English poet Percy Bysshe Shelley's Ode to the West Wind: “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”, a sense of guilt engulfing the audience for lack of awareness on the issue is not preventable either.

Keywords: Ojas S.V.