TODAY -

Meet on AFSPA, Sharmila Chanu at Harvard AFSPA lands on US soil
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, February 23 2012: A symposium titled "11 Year Hunger Strike: Irony In The World's Largest Democracy" was held on February 21 at the John F.Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, in Boston (USA) .

The event was jointly organised by The Carr Center For Human Rights Policy at Harvard University, the Harvard India Caucus, and the Kashmir Initiative at the Carr Center, according to Just Peace Foundation.

The North American Manipur Association (NAMA) and the European Manipuri Association (EMA) were the co-sponsors of the event wherein Dr Charlie Clements, Executive Director of the Carr Center For Human Rights Policy, Harvard University, delivered the welcome address.

The context of the symposium, the first of its kind held in the United States on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila, was lrom Sharmila's 11 years long hunger strike to repeal The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA, 1958) .

Since November 2000, Sharmila, a social activist in Manipur, has been on a hunger strike demanding the repeal of the AFSPA.

During this time, the government has kept her in judicial custody, force-feeding her through a nasal tube.

The speakers of the event included Binalakshmi Nepram, Founder of Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network, Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director Human Rights Alert (Manipur), L Somi Roy of Huntre! International Manipur Projects, Angana Chatterji, co-convener of the International People's Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice, and Pradyot Deb Burman, chairman and Editor of Shillong-based The Northeast Today.

Leichombam Erendro Singh, the President of The Harvard India Caucus, and a World Bank Fellow at Harvard University who coordinated the event also moderated the symposium.

Researchers and scholars of event host and representatives from the University of California, Berkeley, and several others attended the event, including members of the diaspora from Manipur and India.

Manjarita Laishram, NAMA vice-president also attended the event.

The event started out with a historical and cultural background presentation on Manipur by L Somi Roy.

Among other topics, his presentation covered Manipur's religions, arts, sports, languages, ethnic relations, dance forms, and discussed the current situation in the state of Manipur, the Foundation said in a statement.

He also presented a perspective from Manipur, including its historical and cultural attributes of its civilization.

Angana Chatterji, who spoke about AFSPA from the national perspective as it relates to different parts of India, including Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, and parts of the North East Region, highlighted the prevailing climate of militarization and its consequences.

She mentioned the killings of 70,000 people because of the imposition of AFSPA in India� administered Jammu & Kashmir.

Binalakshmi Nepram, in her address gave a brief historical timeline on the role and struggles of Manipuri women in fighting injustice and repression, starting from the first recorded Nupilan, the Women's War of 1904.She kept the focus of her speech on the humanitarian crisis that has occurred as a result of the imposition of AFSPA in Manipur, especially the effect on women and children.

Binalakshmi also mentioned that the iconic struggle of Irom Sharmila Chanu constitutes a part of the long history of women's movement in Manipur such as the Nupilan, the Meira Paibis; a legacy that preceded even the feminist movement in the United States and around the world.

Pradyot Deb Burman spoke about the impact of AFSPA on indigenous population of Tripura, another state in the North East Region of India.

He argued that supporting the movement for the repeal of AFSPA is not an act against the nation, but considered as an honest dialogue to find a domestic resolution; a process of democratic dialogue in India.

Finally, Babloo Loitongbam shared with the audience how lrom Sharmila started her hunger strike after the massacre at Malom in November 2000 .

Elaborating on the democratic resistance against AFSPA since its conception in the Parliament, he emphasized the racial and regional discriminatory dimension of AFSPA, and its institutional and social ramifications.

He maintained that AFSPA violates Article 21 of the Indian Constitution, and challenges the rationale of the Act that sanctions the taking of a human life arbitrarily.

Babloo also drew the attention to the fact that AFSPA violates the universal human rights and international humanitarian laws.

A resolution was taken to form an initiative based at Harvard for future debate and discussion on issues pertaining to Manipur, and the North East Region of India.

The Initiative will primarily focus on research and advocacy for peace and prosperity in the region.

The Initiative will work with Governments, civil society, and other stakeholders.

NAMA hosted a dinner reception after the symposium, at which, Dr.Charlie Clements was presented with a leirum scarf, and a book by the late MK Binodini Devi.

Presents to Carr Center also included a hand written note from lrom Sharmila herself and a painting by Wahengbam Robin, one from a series called "Spirit of Sharmila" by artists of Neo-Gen group in Imphal.

The video recording of the symposium will be webcast for public viewing on the Carr Center website (http://www.hks.harvard.edu/cchrp/) from February 23, 2012, the Foundation informed.


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