IMPHAL, November 5: Widespread hunger strike and other forms of demonstrations were staged in different parts of the world including in North America to mark the completion of 11 years of Irom Sharmila’s fast demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958,.
In a show of solidarity to the historic occasion, many students, civil societies, right activists, film personalities, senior citizens, women’s organizations, political parties etc observed a one day hunger strike in Manipur.
Under the aegis of the Save Democracy, Repeal AFSPA group, hunger strikes were staged at various places of the state including at Ramlal Paul Higher Secondary School, Manipur University campus, Kwairamband Ima Market, Porompat, Heirangoithong, Kongba, Leimaram, Bishnupur, Uripok, Thangmeiband, Manipur Film Forum office complex Lamphel.
The three women’s market of Kwairamband remained closed during strike.
Several hundreds of students from altogether 26 schools under the sponsorship of AMSU, MSF, DESAM, SUK, SWAK and KSA, tried to stage a hunger strike demonstration in front of Kangla main gate however the students were disperse by the police. In the process a student leader was allegedly assaulted by the police.
The joint students’ bodies in a statement decried the alleged police action asserting it as undemocratic. It said that it was very unfortunate that the police denied the students to hold a peaceful demonstration.
Hunger strike demonstrations were also organised at the office of Manipur Peoples’ Party (MPP) and Bharatiya Janata Party office respectively.
Speaking to media persons, the BJP president, Ksh. Shantikumar, denounced the act of the Union home minister P Chidambaram for failing to resolve the burning situation of the state.
He alleged that the P Chidambaram who was on a two days visit has no concerned for the hardship being faced by the people and instead inaugurated some projects and left.
Shantikumar said that Assam MP Bijay Chakarborty, had raised the issue of AFSPA in Parliament in a calling attention.
The All Assam Manipuri Students’ Union, Lakhipur (AAMSU) and Barak Valley Human Rights Committee, also staged a one day hunger strike in Assam under the banner Repeal AFSPA-Save Irom Chanu Sharmila.
The AAMSU organised strike was also participated by representatives of Barak Valley Meitei Women Foundation, Lakhipur, Lakhipur Sub-division Meira Paibee Committee, Barak Valley Meitei Convention, Athouba Ningshing Lup.
The demonstrators also submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister through the SDO Lakhipur, Lina Das.
Similar demonstrations were also organised by the Barak Valley Human Rights Committee in front of the Silchar DC office participated by members of Nari Mukti Juva Samiti, Borokhala Meira Paibee Lup, All Assam Manipuri Students Union and All Assam Manipuri Women Meira Paibee Co-ordination Committee.
In the meantime, the Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA group and many other civil society organizations have appealed to the government of India to repeal the Armed forces Special Powers Act.
A statement released by the Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA group-(SDRAG) has claimed that today’s event at Delhi, Jantar Mantar, saw a large turn-over of people from all walks of life. Students from reputed schools and universities of Delhi, professors and teachers from the same institutions, lawyers, and advocates from the highest judicial courts in the country, the Supreme Court, and many other activists who have been fighting this war to instate democracy in all states of India, expressed their solidarity to the campaign.
Young boys & girls from highly reputed schools of Delhi such as the Bluebells School international who were present in the program showed a keen interest in the campaign activities, understanding Indian politics and asking mind-racking questions which even the politicians of India would falter if asked to answer, the SDRAG statement said.
A soul-touching and thought-provoking play “Manchtantra” on ‘the shame AFSPA has made of the democracy in India’ by a theater group from Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce also took part in the program.
Moreover, senior government official and ex-bureaucrat Kuldeep Nayar spoke strongly against the act. He expressed his kind concern for Sharmila and asked the people of the country to support the cause.
Senior HR activists Harsh Mander and Gautam Navlakha incisively explained the nuances of the act, the politics being played behind it and in a strongly-worded statement asked the people of the nation to quit their indifferences and rise to this cause of the fight against AFSPA, it further informed.
Senior history professor Uma Chakravarti from Miranda House spent some time in explaining the path this act had followed during the course of modern-day history in India. She also talked sensitively about Sharmila’s mother who has not met her daughter since the last 11 years and the desire she has of seeing her daughter freed from the shackles of this oppressive government policy by having AFSPA repealed.
Author Deepti Priya talked passionately about her experience with Sharmila and applauded the efforts of the people of India who had pledged the one-day fast across the nation. She also requested people to consider filing an RTI to allow Sharmila to have more visitors and not be kept in continuous solitary confinement.
Other active supporters of the cause included Mazhar Hussain, convener of COVA, senior social science faculty Nandini Sundar from Delhi School of Economics and Vani from Saheli Women’s organization, Dr Mrigank from Naujavan Bharath Sabha, Birju Nayak from Lok Raj Sagthan, Birju Rekha Samom and Sanamaya from Manpiur Students Association Delhi. They pledged their support to work for the cause of having AFSPA revoked, the SDRAG said.
The day ended with the chanting of slogans and songs of patriotism led by Vani from Saheli group and many other women activists. And the final event of the day was the release of hundreds of balloons with the tag line “LIFT AFSPA” re-sounding our cause loudly of “Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA-stop war against humanity”.
It has further said “Today’s one day fast and demonstration across several cities of India and in other countries such as North America has been organized as part of the 53 years long people’s struggle against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and in support of the world longest hunger strike by Irom Sharmila by completing 11 years to repeal this most draconian, inhuman, undemocratic, black law AFSPA”.
It further maintained SDRAG and the civil societies strongly condemn the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and the failure of the government to address the issue of revoking the act.
It further said despite repeated attempts by the people to convince the government of the ‘undesireous’ nature of the act and also the recommendation of the Jeevan Reddy commission, a committee set up by the government itself to assess the status of AFSPA, the government of India has not moved its position.
Recalling the Malom incident in 2000, Oinam operation tragedy in Manipur, self-immolation of a student Chittaranjan in 2005, naked protest of ‘The Mothers’ outside Kangla Fort against rape and murder of Manorma Devi and many other such strong gestures by the people have been strong reminders to the government of India that AFSPA has been torturous and is not living to the morality that had been decided for it.
It maintained that similar suppressive acts such as POTA and TADA were repealed because people in India stood strongly against the acts. AFSPA which is still worse in its character is still in the status books of the Constitution of India because people of the nation have been silent.
Fast & demonstration were organized in North America, Bangalore, Karnataka, Banaras, Allahabad Uttar Pradesh, Bhubhaneshwar, Orissa, Rajasthan, Kolkatta & Medinapur, West Bengal, Imphal, Manipur, Tripura, Nogaon, Silchar, Dibrugarh, Tejpur in Assam, Himachal Pradesh Chandigarh, Punjab, Alepy, Kerala, Varodha, Gujarat, Pune, Maharastra and Bihar, Organized by Save Democracy repeal AFSPA group along with Manipur Students Association Delhi, Just Peace Foundation, Saheli, CDRO, Yuva Bharath, NAPM, Nirantar, Women against Sexual Violence and Repression, Manipur Meitei Association, Bangalore, Tripura Manipuri Students Union, Janata Praja Shamiti, Rural Welfare Society, All India Students Forum, All India Students Association, Medinipuro Lodha Sabro Kalyan Samiti, Lok Raj Sangathan, and Manipur Women Gun Survivor’s Network, Manipuri Students’ Union of Varodha, Manipur Student Association Chandigarh.