Pan-India sit-in protest and hunger strike against Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
NEFIS receives huge support for the 12-hour hunger strike across the country.
North-East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS), in discussion with Irom Sharmila, organized twelve-hour hunger strikes and collective sit-ins at various places of the country to mark the 15th year of her heroic struggle against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), yesterday on 2nd of November. It is to be noted that on 2nd November 2000 a terrible tragedy shook the state of Manipur when 10 civilians were shot dead by paramilitary forces at a local bus-stop in Malom, Manipur. Among the deceased was an 18-year old National Bravery Award winner. The massacre triggered angry protests across Manipur and led to Irom Sharmila going on her epic fast a few days later. Justice, however, continues to be denied in the case of the Malom massacre and many other such cases. Meanwhile, Irom Sharmila continues to be heckled by cases filed against her and periodic arrests. NEFIS has hence pledged to take forward the nation-wide struggle against the draconian and anti-people Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
NEFIS Units successfully organized the twelve-hour hunger strike across various cities, among which were Delhi, Gwalior, Bangalore, Chandigarh, Kokrajhar (Assam), etc. In Delhi, the sit-in protest along with the hunger strike was organized at Jantar Mantar where large numbers of NEFIS members, North East students, as well as representatives from various progressive and democratic organizations collected to condemn the enforcement of the long abused Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Eminent Human Rights Activist, Babloo Loitongbam and Women Rights Activist Maya John, ensured their presence to extend their solidarity to the hunger strike/collective sit-in. Babloo Loithongbam highlighted the dastardly way in which Indian State continues to justify AFSPA and force-feed Irom Sharmila citing reasons of prevention of suicide. Maya John termed AFSPA a draconian law which serves just as a ploy to curb the democratic rights of people in so-called ‘Disturbed’ regions without any compunctions or fear of being implicated in a judicial probe. The hunger strike and sit-in in Chandigarh, was organized at Student Centre of Panjab University. This was followed by a huge rally around the campus. In Assam, hunger strike was organized at Kokrajhar and Karbi Anglong, which was attended by massive number of students representing different communities. Professors of various colleges too showed their support by being present at the venues. The students called for a collective struggle against this draconian law. The North East students and activists of NEFIS organized hunger strike at Gwalior, which saw a large presence of students from other parts of India, supporting the struggle against AFSPA. At various other places across India too, the activists of NEFIS and students organized hunger strikes and observed 15th year of Irom Sharmila’s struggle in various forms.
It should be noted that AFSPA has been enforced in parts of Jammu and Kashmir, as well as in the North East states where it is serving as a useful weapon for the Indian State to curb the democratic rights and freedom of the people of these regions. Under the draconian provisions of AFSPA the government’s judgment on why an area is found to be ‘disturbed’ is not subject to judicial review. Similarly, there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law, except with the sanction of the Central Government. Moreover, this controversial law provides dangerous impunity to the armed forces for detaining, using lethal force and entering and searching premises without warrant. Since armed soldiers trained in combat and in war have no training in civilian law or policing procedures, atrocities under AFSPA are inevitable and are growing. Hence, NEFIS demands that AFSPA should be repealed at the earliest from all states, thereby ending the miseries of the people.
AFSPA has been condemned nationally and internationally by all democratic and justice loving people. Even certain government-appointed commissions (including the recent Justice Verma Committee) and human rights organizations have pressed for the withdrawal of the Act. The continued enforcement of the Act has ensured continued protests. This is why NEFIS’ call for a hunger strike on 2nd November elicited a phenomenal response. At its sit-in protests and hunger strike across the country, NEFIS called upon all the different communities of the North East, as well as people across the country to raise a unified struggle against AFSPA.