Mamata dashes to meet Sharmila, pledges total removal of AFSPA

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West Bengal Chief Minister and AITC chairperson Mamta Banerjee addressing an election meeting in Imphal on Wednesday.
IMPHAL, Jan 25: The Chief Minister of West Bengal and Chairperson of the All India Trinamool Congress, Mamata Banerjee made a whirlwind stop at Imphal today meeting Irom Sharmila and then addressing a public meeting at Patsoi.

Right after touching down at Tulihal airport, Mamata headed straight to the JN Hospital at Porompat to meet Irom Sharmial who has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2000, calling for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act. Mamata had not got the due clearance to meet Irom Sharmila when she reached Imphal but managed to get the approval at short notice.

A cavalcade of vehicles carrying supporters of Trinamool Congress followed Mamata’s cavalcade till the hospital which saw chaotic scenes. Mamata who interacted with Irom Sharmila for 10 minutes later told the media that she had “assured Irom Sharmila that if the Trinamool Congress came to power in the state, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act would not stay on any more.”

In the meantime, hundreds of people lined on stretches of the road on National Highway 37 from Sagolband to Langjing area waving Trinamool flags and welcoming Mamata Banerjee who was given a rousing welcome as soon she made her presence at Langjing Achouba Grounds in Patsoi.

Later, addressing the public meeting Mamata Banerjee said that the people of Manipur had a special connection with the people of West Bengal because of cultural affinities and shared history. “The INA (Indian National Army) memorial is testimony of our close ties,” said Mamata who went on to make a faux pas saying Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose had come to Imphal during the Second World War and hoisted the Indian tri-color at Moirang.

Mamata spoke of her meeting with Irom Sharmila at the meeting and said, “When I met her, I assured her that we will not give consent for AFSPA to continue.” Pointing towards the security personnel present at the meeting, she further said, “Security personnel are not our enemies.

It is the tyranny that we are fighting.” She went on to decry the lack of development that was visible in the roads of Imphal and the shortcomings present in the industrial sector, health care, transport and communications.

Drawing parallels to the manner in which the Trinammol led Government in West Bengal had tackled the Maoist issue, Mamata said, “We have handled the Maoist issue within 8 months of being in the Government and I don’t see why the same cannot be done in Manipur.

One only has to be ready to look at viable political solutions instead of taking away the confidence of the people by bringing in more and more forces.”

The public meeting was attended by all Trinamool Party candidates contesting in the forthcoming 10th Assembly elections besides several party representatives, including MP and North East In charge KD Singh, Union Minsiter Mukul Roy, MP and party spokesperson Derek o’ Brien besides state party representatives.

S. Bilashini (54) of Langjing Awang Leikai who had a kept an overnight vigil at the meeting venue said, “The news of violence happening around the elections have been discouraging and we felt that Mamata would cancel her strip at any time. But we are happy that she came and spoke to us.”

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