15th Year of Heroic Struggle of Irom Sharmila: Shame on Government, Salute to People

4th November 2014, New Delhi

As you know, Irom Sharmila or the Iron lady of Manipur, has entered the 15th year of her hunger-strike against AFSPA. For 14 years, she has been pleading for humanity. Her struggle of 14 years shows her relentless faith in the democratic institutions. She is hopeful that someday the Government will listen to her. She is a true democrat yet her democratic way of protest is being ignored in the ‘World’s largest democracy’.

It is a shame for democracy and government that it is ignoring such a heroic and non violent struggle. We, at SSSC, condemn the action of government in this regard and on the other hand, when we see the tireless efforts of people of AFSPA imposed areas who are continuously struggling against this inhumane law and trying to live their life, we salute their efforts for justice and democracy. We see the true democracy in these people’s struggle rather than in the government that is largely acted as deaf and ignorant over such an important issue that is associated with its own citizen’s lives.

We believe that making a democracy more accountable and transparent, more responsible and generous is a collective responsibility of all of us. We also appeal with top officials of army, security agencies and decision makers to take a kind note on ill-effects of this act. They must take note that how they should be more concerned about it and must see that this act is not appropriate and humane. Army and security agencies are formed with the very objective to provide a safe and secure environment to people and at that level this act has been utilized in such a way that it only became a tool to play with people’s lives knowingly or unknowingly.

System must be defined in such a way that nobody can take benefit of this and a stringent vigil must be there to make our implementers more accountable. AFSPA lacks all such efforts. People who are living in AFSPA imposed areas have faced various problems and their complaints have not been registered, their cases have not been lodged and investigated at many levels. All these things not only lead to make a gap between security agencies and people.

AFSPA which has been existing for 60 years now has devastated the affected regions. There has been gross violation of human rights in these areas. With arbitrary powers and legal impunity granted to armed forces, AFSPA has led to extra-judicial killings, fake encounters, rapes and torture of civilians. AFSPA challenges the basic fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. It has become a political issue in which the only sufferers are the common people.

In this regard, we appeal the present BJP led government to fulfill its promises of restoring humanity in Manipur. During the elections, the Manipur unit of BJP had declared that if voted to power, the undemocratic and arbitrary law of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will be repealed. Even news reports are available in this regard. It has given us a new hope. So now that you have been bestowed with the trust of the people to restore humanity, we appeal to keep your word and take the humane decision to repeal AFSPA.

Irom Sharmila has been charged with the attempt to commit suicide but that is wrong. It was not suicide, it is a great sacrifice, a struggle for humanity. In her court trials and in interviews, she has said that she loves her life and is only demanding that the fundamental rights that are granted in the constitution should be extended to people in North-East India. Sir, Irom Sharmila was not a social activist. She was not even a direct victim of the law. Yet, she is on a hunger-strike for 14 years. And she is not alone. We are a part of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, a nation-wide protest against the neglect and suppression of Irom Sharmila.

For over three years now, the campaign has been organizing public demonstrations, awareness programmes in colleges, signature campaigns in about 20 states and nation-wide rallies to spread the word about her and her struggle. From all these, we have gathered that people are sympathetic towards her, her cause. People believe in her. The Supreme Court, NHRC, several national and international human rights’ organizations have also regarded AFSPA to be a draconian law.

Even the government’s own committees like Jeevan Reddy committee recommended already for its repeal, Justice Verma committee that was formed after Delhi Rape case (Nirbhaya case) had also recognized the sexual violence that happens under the garb of AFSPA and had recommended that these sexual violence cases should be treated in the same way as sexual violence cases in non-AFSPA states.

AFSPA does not have the mandate of the people. In regard to democracy and humanity, we demand that:

1. Immediate steps must be taken to Repeal AFSPA from Manipur on the basis of ‘promise of BJP that is presently in government but the more than that on the basis of ‘Justice’ and ‘humanity’.

2. Immediate steps to Repeal AFSPA from other regions of North east and J&K.

Also, as an immediate measure,

1. Charges of 'commit to suicide' must be taken back from Irom Sharmila Chanu and she must be set free. Her fast is for the life, and not against life in anyway, also it is for the society and not for any personal reason. With the interim relief, Government must order to remove charges of section 309 (attempt to suicide case) from New Delhi and Manipur both places and must set her free to meet people like any normal citizen can.

2. The Govt of India, must set up a parliamentary panel immediately to start talk with Irom Sharmila and to study human rights violations in AFSPA imposed areas

3. The recommendation of the Justice Verma committee regarding the sexual violence cases under AFSPA should be implemented.

We at SSSC are also submitting letters to Members of Parliament to raise the issue within their party as well as before the government. On 6th November, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign is organizing a one-day solidarity fast and gathering in support of Irom Sharmila at Jantar Mantar (Delhi) from 11 am onwards.

We all believe that democracy must listen the voice of people and must not ignore such demands that are largely towards the objective of better governance and more humane society. We also hope that more and more people will also come in support of the demand and we will raise our demand more strongly and loudly with our peaceful campaigning and advocacy.

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely,

Ravi Nitesh/Devika Mittal/ Pankaj Pathak
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign

* This PR was sent to by Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign who can be contacted at savesharmila(at)gmail(dot)com
This Press Release was posted on November 05 2014

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