IMPHAL, November 11: Timed to tally with the visit of Sonia Gandhi to Manipur, Vani Subramanian of Saheli Women’s Resource Centre in a press release stated that Irom Sharmila has completed 10 years of hunger fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and inquired whether Sonia Gandhi will acknowledge her peaceful struggle and end her solitary confinement during her Manipur sojourn.
Over the last few weeks the Manipur valley has been paying tribute to 10 years of the relentless struggle of the Imphal-based poet, Irom Chanu Sharmila, against the AFSPA, it said.
In response, the government of Manipur has systematically disrupted peaceful public meetings and banned rallies and concerts that were being attended by people from all over the country who had met to honour Irom Sharmila and re-iterate their long-standing demand for the immediate repeal of the AFSPA – a draconian law that has been force in many parts of the north east as well as Kashmir for almost 60 years now and left a terrible legacy of killings, torture, disappearances, rape, and many other crimes committed with impunity, the statement said.
The statement further states that for too long, the government has turned a blind eye to excesses by the armed forces committed under AFSPA and has refused to implement the recommendations of several of its own Committees , from the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to the 2nd Administrative Reforms Committee to repeal AFSPA.
The act has suppressed peaceful voices of protest like that of Irom Sharmila by holding her in solitary confinement, without rights of visitation granted even to convicted criminals in the country,the statement said.
On November 12, 2010 Chairperson, UPA and AICC President, Ms Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to visit the Manipur valley to inaugurate some developmental projects . But it seems, that like the government she heads, Ms Gandhi has no time or inclination to listen to the voices of the people of Manipur, or indeed to live up to the promises made by her own government , after all, on 2 December 2006, PM Manmohan Singh promised the speedy removal of the AFSPA at the historic Kangla Fort from where she will now address a public meeting.
As chairperson, National Advisory Council, we urge Ms Gandhi to go beyond political affiliations by meeting Irom Sharmila on her current visit, and initiating proceedings to end the undemocratic way in which Irom Sharmila’s freedom of liberty and speech have been taken away from her.
As democratic voices, peoples’ organisations, women’s and students groups and concerned individuals we demand that if Ms Gandhi truly wishes to do something for the people of the region, she must not remain silent on the spate of aggressions by the state government in the valley and hill areas, especially over the last year.
She cannot visit the region and fail to initiate a political dialogue with the people. She cannot ignore the impact of militarization by the State that dominates peoples’ lives. She cannot remain silent on the AFSPA anymore,the statement concluded.
The statement was signed by many prominent well known civil society figures in Delhi.