Sharmila just 10 days short of clocking 10 years' fast
Source: Hueiyen News Service / Newmai News Network

Imphal, October 21 2010: Come November 2, human rights crusader Irom Sharmila Chanu will clock ten years of her steadfast fast demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,1958 from Manipur, if not from the whole the country.

Her struggle has been against the suppression, denial, exploitation and violation of basic human rights to live in a peaceful world free from violence.

Mahatma Gandhi's political struggle through non-violence has found in Sharmila a modern reincarnate.

To mark the day, Just Peace Foundation has a chain of events up its sleeves in the run up to November 2 .

Earlier, writer-activist Arundhati Roy had assured that she would come to Imphal to join the November 2 event with Irom Sharmila but due to her mother's illness, she has cancelled her programme.

However, Just Peace Foundation informed Newmai News Network that Justice (retired) Jeevan Reddy will come to participate in the November 2 programme in Imphal.

On November 2000, Assam Riffles had unleashed a reign of terror by mindlessly gunning down 10 civilians in what later came to be known as the 'Malom Massacre' at Malom near Tulihar Airport , Imphal.

The aftermath was that the people poignanty had awoke to the gross insecurity of life under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 .

More telling than that, an unassuming but sturdy woman called Irom Sharmila Chanu had silently pledged to redeem the people, especially victims of the Act (in Manipur and elsewhere) by going on a fast-unto-death until the Act is totally repealed.

To this day, she survives by forced nasal feeding, standing tall to her pledge and sticking to her guns steadfastly.

Ironically, a criminal case of attempt to commit suicide has been indicted against the lone marathon Manipuri crusader, she has been lodged as a 'high security prisoner', (like Burma 's democracy campaigner Aung Sang Suu Kyi), in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), Porompat in Imphal.

The draconiar Act was promulgated by the Union Home ministry in 1958 as being indispensable to the Armed Forces operating in hostile environments.

Little did the government know that the Act was to become one of the most abused powers in the hands of the Armed Forces to eliminate suspects summararily , for the Act sanitizes any scope to judicial recourse by victims of the Army's arbitrary exploits.

While it was introduced in the Parliament, an institutional moratorium after 6 months of operation was guaranteed.

For the last 52 years, however, the Armed Forces have been enjoying an immunity under the Act's right to "arrest, detain, and even kill civilians, to search and destroy properties", all on mere suspicion.

Later on, Kashmir was also brought under the purview of the Act.

To get an idea of the gravity of the murderous Act, Human Rights Alert's executive director Babloo Loitongbam nad said.

"During the last 52 years since AFSPA was enforced, around 500 people were shot dead in Manipur every year on the average without conducting any sort of trial" .

"Enforced 'disappearances', extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and arbitrary detentions have been routinely reported" .

Even as ground zero of the movement against the infamous Act Manipur still buys time and mulls over the idea or possibility of repealing the Act, States like Anurachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland have unanimously resolved for its repeal.

In fact, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh hinted in a recent public address of the possibility of re-imposing the Act from seven segments of the Imphal municipality areas from where the Act had been removed following a public outcry in 2004 .

It is not a co-incidence that a crusader with a single lofty vision of getting her country and her people rid of the murderous Act had to germinate from the soil of Manipur.

Over 25,000 Manipuri lives have been sacrificed at the altar of AFSPA since its introduction in the Indian Parliament in 1985.To the average Manipuris on the streets, the Act is the challenge of Sharmila, the act is everything that a democracy is not.

The Act is untenable vis-�-vis the principle of democracy that we so cherish as the foundation of our nation.

The rights to life, property and personal security in modern democratic governments have been selectively limited to certain section of the people and to certain regions of the country.

She once said that her fight is not against one government and definitely not for one community, it is against those governments where such in human laws still persists, and for all those who are victims of such arbitrary laws.

She is in every sense a universal humanist.

Irom Sharmila's struggle and objective have been lapped up by intellectuals who interrogate if India is dealing sincerely with Manipur or is it a colonial ploy to balkanize and instigate violence in the region so as to make it into a buffer zone against which stand the separatists of the region.

Babloo says that if Sharmila dies without achieving her goal; insurgent organizations' claim to Indian Government's insincerity will find credence.

This is reason enough for a local human rights watchdog Just Peace Foundation (JPF), who has been giving unstinting support to Sharmila's crusade against AFSPA.

JPF, in partnership with local civil society organizations have initiated a countdown fete "Hope, Peace and Justice", leading to the 'one decade' of unyielding struggle and human endurance, marking Sharmila's unwavering fight.

The eventful fete will start November 2 extending till November 6, interspersed with cultural events and seminars.

On October 24, JPF will go on a 'run-up-to-the-fete-day' rally supported by All Manipur Rickshaw Pullers' Association.

October 31 has 'spot painting' competition at D M College campus.

On the inaugural day of November 2, around 14 celebrated artists have been roped in to artistically depict Sharmila's in their paintings which will go up on exhibition at Jawaharlal Nehru Dance Academy , Imphal.

November 3 and 4 will witness intellectual seminars in its attempt to chart out a roadmap for future struggles.

On November 5, a local band, Tapta, with various other performing invitees, will enthrall a live crowd at Bheighachandra Open Air Theater (BOAT), Imphal.

The grand finale of 'Hope' will witness all communities (broadly Meitei-Muslim-Tribals) coming together in a mass-prayer meeting asking G/gods/goddesses/ to intervene.

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