IMPHAL, Nov 5 – Sit-in protest, candlelight demonstration and recitation competition marked the completion of 12 years of Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 in Manipur today.
The ‘Iron lady of Manipur’ Sharmila (40) has been on a hunger strike since the year 2000 demanding repeal of the Act that gives the Army the right to arrest suspected militants without arrest warrants and shoot anyone suspected of being a militant.
Braving the cold November rain, Sharmila Kanba Lup, a body which spearheaded a relay hunger strike for more than 450 days since December 13, 2004, to save Sharmila, staged a sit-in demonstration near the gate of JNIMS hospital, Porompat in Imphal East district, where Sharmila is in judicial custody.
Later in the evening, a candlelight vigil was also observed around JNIMS hospital by Sharmila’s supporters, a State- level recitation under the theme ‘AFSPA Louthok-u Punshi Kal-lu (Remove AFSPA, Save Human Lives)’ at Lamyanba Shanglen at Palace gate in Imphal.
Sharmila’s elder brother Irom Singhajit, speaking to media on the sidelines of a State-level recitation competition in Imphal this afternoon, believed that his sister’s dream would be fulfilled one day. “So let’s unite for the rights of the people in the North-east,” he said.
Accusing the elected representatives of the State for not taking up the people’s voice in the right forum, he said they should raise their voice on behalf of the people like the leaders in Jammu and Kashmir. “We’re still struggling for the right to life while others are fighting for issues relating to corruption, etc,” he observed. “Is there a policy to impose AFSPA only in the North East?” he asked.
Sharmila, a civil rights activist and a poet, had begun her strike after the death of 10 people in a firing by the security forces at Malom near Imphal on November 2, 2000.