Civil society organisation in Bangalore campaigns in solidarity with Sharmila

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IMPHAL, Feb 2: The 6 day campaign initiated by different civil society organisations in solidarity with Irom Sharmila will conclude on February 3, 2011, informed a statement released by Basanta Wareppa, Programme co-ordinator, Human Rights Alert.

It said the campaign is undertaken in the context of the completion of ten years of hunger fast by Poet activist Irom Sharmila, for a demand to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA).

Many significant bodies including the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, Justice Jeevan Reddy, Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Bulding Measures as well as the Second Administrative Commission have demanded the repeal of AFSPA,’ said Babloo from Human Rights Alert, Imphal. What we are asking is entirely within the framework of the Indian Constitution, through non-violent means. There is no reason why this demand is not met in spite of recommendations by official bodies nationally and internationally.’

The hunger fast of Irom Sharmila is a unique non-violent struggle, moving millions of hearts all over the world’, said Ojas SV, well known theatre activist from Pune. ‘No activist in the history of social movements in any part of the world could ever dream of committing oneself on hunger fast for ten years.’ Ley Mashale (Bearing Torch), the one woman play on Irom Sharmila by Ojas is being performed in several colleges from January 29th onwards.

‘It is a shame that the Indian Government has not moved on an issue where people’s hearts all over the world has moved’, said Jagdish Chandra, coordinator, People’s Solidarity Concerns. We believe that the civil society in Bangalore must ask a serious question about why we are paying taxes to maintain the second largest army in the world, which is responsible for shooting, torture, rape and murder of innocent people in Manipur as well in other parts of North East.’

‘My film Apri 6’ on the widows of Manipur was banned by the Permanent Mission of Indian in New York, when it was about to be screened at the United Nations Head Quarters. ‘You can ban a film, but you cannot ban viewers who seek justice’, said Chandam Netraj, director of the documentary which was screened as part of the campaign. According to him, around 500 people in Manipur are shot every year creating at least 300 widows. ‘What we need is peace, but we are fed with bullets,’said Nitan from Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association Manipur (EEFAM). Nitan’s husband was shot by the Armed Forces in the year 2008. She has a four year old child.

The way innocent Muslims are branded with suspicion all over the country, Manipuris are also subject to humiliation,’ said Nagma from Bharatiya Muslim Manila Andolan. All womens’ organisations must come forward to express support for this grave issue. ‘It is a matter of preserving the democratic traditions of this country,’ said Mathews Philip from the Bangalore based human rights group SICHREM. The gross human rights violations due to AFSPA is a threat to Indian Democracy’

‘How is it that we do not see any single report on the North East if we look at our newspapers,’ wondered Deepu from the Pedestrian Pictures. ‘It appears that we along with the national media are trying to separate ‘north east’ from our minds.

A full day seminar on ‘Irom Sharmila and AFSPA will be conducted at SCM house, Mission Road on February 3, 2011 from 9.30 am onwards. The final performance of the play on Irom Sharmila will take place at 4 pm. The events are organised in Bangalore by Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns, SICHREM, Pedestrian Pictures, Open Space, New Socialist Alternative, Students Christian Movement of India, Bharatiya Muslim Manila Andolan, Visual Search, Indian Social Institute, Moving Republic and other orgnaisations. The organisers have called for a protest in solidarity with Irom Sharmila at 5 pm at Town Hall on January 3, 2011.

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