“I was half conscious most of the time but whenever I regained consciousness, the commandoes were molesting me…but, I am grateful to them for giving me the chance to narrate my agony by sparing my life at least” revealed one of the thousands of women who were raped by army men who are guarded heavily by the autocratic law of AFSPA.
AFSPA or Armed Forces Special Powers Act, passed in 1958, rules all the north east states(except Sikkim) and Jammu and Kashmir. It was imposed to check insurgency. AFSPA allows shooting the “suspects” and provides legal immunity to the army men. Because of this, in the name of protecting law and order, AFSPA has led to extra judicial killings, fake encounters, illegal detentions, torture and rapes. The law was enforced in Manipur in 1980 and was supposed to last six months but it continues to destroy it till today.
In 2000, a Manipuri poet and activist, Irom Chanu Sharmila, decided to adopt a non-violent and peaceful method to seek attention of the Government. She decided to fast for a day but the fast continues till date. The Government has not only ignored her but has also suppressed her by charging her with “attempt to suicide”. She is arrested and faces a trial, every year. She has also been forceful fed by nasogastric tube and is confined to the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) supports her and her struggle on humanitarian and democratic grounds. Irom Sharmila deserves a voice in the world’s largest democracy and demands positive talks with her. For over an year, SSSC has been spreading awareness and gathering support for her through public demonstrations, candle-light vigils, awareness programmes in colleges, nation-wide signature campaign and two caravans which covered almost all the states of the country.
SSSC now appeals to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), the prime institution for protection of human rights in the country, to direct the Government to open talks with Irom Sharmila.
You could kindly visit http://www.SaveSharmila.org for more details about the cause.
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC),
1. The Prime Minister of Govt. of India;
2. The President of Govt. of India;
3. The Home Minister of Govt. of India;
4. Chief Minister of the state of Manipur;
5. Chairperson of UN Commission on Human Rights;
6. Chairman of Amnesty International;
7. Chairman of Human Rights Watch;
Subject: ATTENTION TOWARDS THE 11 YEARS OF HUNGER STRIKE OF IROM SHARMILA.
We are writing for your kind attention towards the 11 YEARS OF HUNGER STRIKE OF IROM SHARMILA.
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC), a nationwide protest against the neglect and suppression of Irom Sharmila, has been continuously working to spread awareness and gather support for her from the general public of the country and abroad, through candle-light vigils, awareness programmes in colleges, nation-wide signature campaign and caravans covering almost all states of India.
For, we believe that the ongoing fast of Irom Sharmila is the symbol of her faith in democratic values and non violence. The fact that the Government has not taken any positive steps also hurts us and our faith in democracy.
We would like to bring to your kind attention these facts:
• She is a human rights activist and has been fighting not for the cause of one individual or herself, but for the society as a whole. The charge of “attempt to suicide” is disgraceful.
• Sharmila’s fight is based on non violence. She talks about peace, love and non violence in her each message. But the Government has ignored her. In these 11 years, no parliamentary delegation or all-party representative group was ever sent to Manipur. There hasn’t even been any continuous approach of communication.
• NHRC has also not arranged any official visit of members of this institution to meet Irom Sharmila and people of Manipur.
• The meeting procedure is also very difficult. It is, unlike, as in all other cases of suicide attempt or as in case of an ordinary prisoner. She has been charged under the attempt to suicide but doesn’t forced solitary confinement increase the chances of suicide?
• She is not allowed to meet the public. When other prisoners charged with the same or more serious charge are allowed, then why not her?
• The suppression of a non-violent voice may discourage people from using this method of protest and will encourage violent ways.
• Many national/international agencies, eminent persons like Nobel peace prize winners, Padma awardees, Megsaysay awardees, many social activists and intellectuals and general public have been raising this issue.
In view of this suppression by the Government, and the necessity to protect the values of humanity and democracy, our only hope lies with NHRC, the prime and renowned institution for protection of human rights. The issue has not only appealed to the general public but has become known on an international scale as well. We request NHRC:
1) To issue notice to the Government of India on the issue.
2) To arrange an official visit of members of NHRC at Manipur to meet Irom Sharmila.
We hope that our faith in this institution will be maintained by the actions of the institution in favor of protection of human rights in this case.