IMPHAL, Nov 2: The five-day long ‘Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace’ celebrating the indefatigable spirit of Irom Chanu Sharmila, kicked off today at Jawaharlal Nehru Manipuri Dance Academy, Imphal.
The festival is being organized by Just Peace Foundation to commemorate the completion of 10 years of Sharmila’s struggle for the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 which began after the Malom massacre where ten civilians were gunned down by the personnel of Assam Rifles on November 2, 2000.
The festival was inaugurated by Harsh Mander, Commissioner of Right to Food, Government of India.
Speaking at the occasion, Harsh Mander stated that Irom Chanu Sharmila’s decade long struggle for the repeal of AFSPA has been very extra-ordinary as it is totally based on the principle of non-violence which is hard to find elsewhere in the present world.
He said Sharmila’s epic fast is the symbol of hope, justice and peace which everyone yearns in today’s trouble-torn society full of brutality and injustice.
Dwelling on the present law and order situation of the state, Harsh asserted that Manipur is a part of India and not a colony of India. The promises of the Constitution have been compromised in the state and men in uniform always try to suppress the people under certain draconian laws of the country such as AFSPA.
The extra-judicial killing of innocent people in so called ‘fake-encounters’ has become the order of the day in Manipur. The naked fury in front of the Western Kangla Gate and other stern agitations portray the true scenario in Manipur where there is gross violation of human rights committed by both state and non-state actors, he noted.
Harsh also said that hope, justice and peace are the important elements of a society without which the whole social setup would disintegrate. In the society there can be no peace without justice and vice-versa. People need to stress on building a just and humane society, he averred.
The Commissioner of Right to Food, Harsh Mander also inaugurated a painting exhibition which showcased a rich collection of masterpieces of local artists dedicated to Irom Chanu Sharmila and her struggle for the repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Acts, 1958.
The inaugural function of the festival was also marked by the presentation of valley folk song and hill folk music dedicated to Sharmila by eminent folk minstrel Naorem Ganga Tombi and Tangkhul folk artiste Guru Rewben Mashangba respectively.
A play titled ‘Meira Paibi’ based on the life and struggle of Sharmila was also staged at the inaugural function by Civic Chandran’s team from Kerala.
Various international human rights organizations have also extended their solidarity to Sharmila’s decade long struggle on the occasion of the inaugural function of the ‘Festival of Hope, Peace and Justice’.
The Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (Forum-Asia), in its statement, said that AFSPA must be repealed and the ten years’ hunger strike of Irom Sharmila must end now.
Justice H Suresh, in his statement, maintained that the government is unmindful of Sharmila’s satyagraha for all these years. What difference is there, between a government that keeps Sui Kyi under house arrest for several decades, and a government that ignores Sharmila’s hunger strike for a decade?
The Berlin-based ‘Frontline’ would also webcast a special story on Sharmila’s struggle for the repeal of AFSPA on the occasion of commemorating the completion of ten years’ epic fast.