TODAY -

Irom Sharmila slams centre for exercising discrimination
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, August 30 2011: Irom Sharmila, on a hunger strike for the past 11 years, on Tuesday said a day would come when her fight against rights violations by security forces would be acknowledged by New Delhi like the way parliament had recognised Anna Hazare's campaign against corruption.

"The central government recognised Anna Hazare as a true Indian citizen and hence accepted his demands.

I am sure one day the government would recognise me and my fight against rights violations," Sharmila told journalists outside at the Court of the CJM, Imphal East where she was being produced for a routine hearing.

"I would like to urge Anna to visit Manipur and see for himself what is happening here," Sharmila said as she was shoved inside a police van from the court premises.

Dubbed as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Sharmila began her fast on November 2, 2000, after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop at Malom Makha Leikai.

Now around 40, she was arrested shortly after beginning her protest -- on charges of attempted suicide.

She was sent to a prison hospital where she began a daily routine of being force-fed via a nasal drip.

Sharmila is frequently set free by local courts, but once outside, she resumes her hunger-strike and is rearrested.

She is campaigning for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that enables security forces to shoot on sight and arrest anybody without a warrant.

Civil rights campaigners in Manipur are upset with the mainstream media for the disparity in coverage by heaping importance on Anna Hazare's anti-graft fast and ignoring the over decade-long hunger strike by Irom Chanu Sharmila.

"There is a general sense of feeling that we, the people of the northeast, have always been neglected, discriminated, and looked down by the rest of India, including the mainstream media.

See how Anna's fast has hogged media headlines and see our very own Irom fasting for nearly 11 years," Singhajit Singh, a civil rights campaigner and Sharmila's elder brother, said.

"The attitude of the Indian public is sad in the sense that something happening in the northeast is seldom recognized by the mainstream media.

The whole attitude is discriminatory," said Babloo Loitongbam from a local human rights group.

AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant security forces special powers and immunity from prosecution to deal with insurgencies in the northeastern states and in Jammu and Kashmir.

The act is a target for local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which say the law has been an excuse for extra-judicial killings.

Amnesty has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a stain on India's democratic credentials and a violation of international human rights laws.

Sharmila is currently being held in an isolated room at the Jawarharlal Nehru Hospital.

"If Anna was born in Manipur and Sharmila born in New Delhi, things would have been just the reverse.

For the mainstream media, northeast or things happening in the northeast hardly interest them," Babloo said.

Earlier in the day, former union home secretary GK Pillai said that Sharmila must "reach out to people across the country" like Hazare to make her cause known.

AFSPA enables security forces to shoot at sight and arrest anybody without a warrant if an area is declared disturbed.

"It is a question of how you reach out to people.

AFSPA is applicable only in Jammu and Kashmir and in the northeastern states.

Corruption is pricking people everywhere and that's why Anna Hazare had a high moral ground," Pillai told reporters Monday.

"Sharmila has to reach out to the people across the country.

She has to say why she is on fast," said Pillai.

"AFSPA should be repealed and the government should have a humane law," Pillai added.

Manipur is home to 2.4 million people and about 19 separatist groups which have demands ranging from autonomy to independence.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed during the past two decades of violence.


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