Sharmila Confined to a solitary existence!
It is now almost five months since Irom Sharmila returned to Imphal on 5th March 2007, to continue her hunger fast against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The situation continues to be grim – both for Sharmila as well for all those suffering under the prolonged implication of AFSPA.
For those of you reading about Sharmila’s epic struggle for the first time – on 4th November 2000, 28 year old Irom Sharmila Chanu started her hunger fast seeking repeal of the draconian AFSPA. This was her response to one among countless incidents of arbitrary killing by the Armed Forces in the north east when on 2nd November 2000, 10 innocent civilians were killed at Malom near Imphal, Manipur.
Sharmila has since been incarcerated at J.N. Hospital Imphal. Over the years she has been repeatedly arrested and detained under Section 309 IPC (attempt to commit suicide). In October 2006, for the first time Sharmila left Manipur and continued her protest fast at Jantar Mantar, and then at AIIMS and RML hospitals in New Delhi where she was kept under constant police vigil.
Sentenced to solitary confinement?
Now in her 7th year of the fast, Sharmila’s health is deteriorating. Far from responding to her demand of Repeal of AFSPA, the state is doing everything it can to isolate her and her peaceful struggle.
At the hospital, Sharmila is not allowed visitors on a regular basis. This is in complete violation of the law, which permits anyone in custody, be they an undertrial prisoner or a convict in a high security prison regular visits by his or her family members, friends, supporters and/or lawyers. And yet, Sharmila does not even this basic freedom, despite the fact that there is no court order commanding her isolation. Her family, friends and supporters are put through an arduous and cumbersome process to meet her.
The ‘Special’ process takes to meet Sharmila can take up to 20 days and involves an application to the Joint Secretary Home Department, Government of Manipur; the DGP, Prison, Central Jail, Manipur; the Additional Superintendent, Sajiwa Jail, Manipur and the SI, Sajiwa Jail – who if the application gets all the due clearances, then ‘accompanies’ the visitor to meet Sharmila!
What are we to surmise except that the Government is attempting to isolate her from all contact with the outside world in the hope of weakening her struggle? ………..
Matter of honour.
It is unlikely that the Government of India will acknowledge or respect, let alone honour Sharmila for her determined struggle for justice and peace. Satyagraha, after all, has been disregarded repeatedly in these times.
On 18th May 2007, Sharmila was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in Seoul, Korea. Her brother Singhjit received the award on her behalf and returned to Manipur only to be told that the certificate would not be shown to Sharmila. He had to wait till 30 June to get ‘permission’ to visit Sharmila and give her an update of the events surrounding the award.
The Gwanju Prize includes a cash award of $25,000 (approx. Rs. 12 lakhs). Sharmila and her family have decided that this money will go towards assisting the victims of the human rights violations in Manipur. The Ministry of Home Affairs (FCRA department) claims it has ‘lost’ the FC-5 application required to facilitate transfer of the award amount. What will it take for the Government to expedite and release it without any further game playing?
AFSPA – No response to the demand for repeal.
At both, the Central and State level, the government is simply refusing to address the peoples’ demand for repeal of AFSPA – despite the voices against it being raised against it from Kashmir to Kerala to Delhi to Manipur and Nagaland, for over two decades now. In addition of course, have been the recommendations for Repeal of the Act by the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee set up by the government as well as the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Mr. Veerappa Moily.
Meanwhile in the shadow of this draconian Act, and the impunity it offers the armed forces, everyday the people of Manipur are disappearing, being killed and tortured. Mr. Nongmaithem Tomba alias Chinung (37 years), Miss. Soniya alias Najama Latif (15 years), Mr. Moirangthem Gandhi Singh (24 years) everyday AFSPA continues to claim new victims.
Need for urgent action
It is imperative that as individuals and groups who believe in democracy and justice, we raise our voice against the continued injustice under AFSPA and the continued harassment of Irom Sharmila.
1. Send a statement. Let’s be heard this time!
Here is a draft statement you could use to lend your support:
We, the undersigned, as individuals and groups who believe in democracy and justice, demand that the government of India:
Moreover, the government must:
Only then can the people of the north-east and J&K have any chance or hope to live with security and dignity.
Please email the Statement to the following (and copy us in so we know how much support the campaign is getting):
President of India, Sushri Pratibha Patil, Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Minister of Home Affairs, Mr. Shivraj V. Patil, Minister of Defence, Mr. A. K. Antony, Minister of State for Labour & Employment, Mr. Oscar Fernandes,
Chairperson, National Human Rights Commission of India, Chief Minister of Manipur, Mr. O. Ibobi Singh, Governor of Manipur, Shri Ved Marwah.
Sign the petition!
· Please forward this to as many people as you can on your mailing list and various list serves, and sign the online petition against Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 at this link: http://www.petitiononline.com/mod_perl/signed.cgi?afspa
Stay in touch with Sharmila!
· You can also write directly to Sharmila and send her messages of solidarity at:-
Irom Sharmila Chanu
Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital
Imphal – 795001
This update is an attempt to keep informed all those in solidarity with Sharmila, who resolutely persists in her demand for the repeal of an anti-people law.
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