Whether AFSPA Is Revoked Or Not Sharmila Has Already Won The Battle
Against All That Symbolise State Terrorism
Sharmila just 10 days shy of clocking 10 years of 'fast-unto-death' stir

Source: The Sangai Express / Newmai News Network

Imphal, October 21, 2010: Come November 2, human rights crusader Irom Sharmila Chanu will have reached the decade mark of her un-wavering demand to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 from Manipur, if not from the whole the country.

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

Mahatma Gandhi has become synonymous with non- violence in modern India with his non-violence principle influencing the world polity and Sharmila today fits the character of a post-modern reincarnate of the Father of the Nation.

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

The crusader in Sharmila continues to wage a silent protest

Earlier, writer-activist Arundhati Roy 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 been constrained to cancel 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.

In November 2000, Assam Rifles personnel stationed at Tulihal had fired indiscriminately gunning down 10 civilians in what later came to be known as the 'Malom Massacre' at Malom near Tulihar Airport, Imphal.

The developments that followed the massacre is poignant in more ways than one.

The people had woken to the gross insecurity of life sanctioned by Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958.More telling than that, an unassuming but determined 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of the Act (in Manipur and elsewhere) by going on a fast-until-death agitation until and unless the Act is totally repealed.

To this day, she survives on nasal feeding, sticking to her pledge steadfastly.

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

The Act was promulgated by the Union Home Ministry in 1958 as something indispensable in the arsenal of the Armed Forces who had to operate in hostile environment.

Little was it imagined that the Act was to become one of the most effective arms in the hands of the Armed Forces to eliminate suspects summarily without the fear of being judged, for the Act gave the security forces legal immunities while conducting CI Ops.

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

For the last 52 years, however, the Armed Forces have been functioning under the immunity granted by the Act to "arrest, detain, and even kill civilians, to search and destroy properties", all these on mere suspicion.

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

To get an idea of the gravity of the situation created by the imposition of the Act, Human Rights Alert's Executive Director Babloo Loitongbam may be quoted : "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 detention have been routinely reported".

Even as the movement against the infamous Act continues in Manipur, States like Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Nagaland have unanimously resolved for its repeal.

Not repealing the Act is another matter, Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh apparently hinted in his recent public address of the possibility of re-imposing the Act at the seven segments of Imphal munici- pality areas from where the Act was withdrawn to remain effective following the hughe public outcry in 2004 after the bullet riddled body of Manorama was discovered.

It is not a co-incidence that a crusader with a single lofty vision of getting her country and her people rid off the murderous Act had to germinate from within 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 had not appeared to challenge the essence of their being, but to Sharmila, it was everything that a democracy was not.

The Act was 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 of the modern democratic governments have been selectively limited to certain section of the people and to certain region 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 archaic law still persists, and for all those who are victims of arbitrary laws.

She is in every sense a universalistic 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 enthral 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 gods/goddesses/ to intervene.

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