On the eve of International Women’s Day, let’s honor and salute “Iron Lady of Manipur”, an iconic women of India known for her fasting since last 800 weeks (15+ years), yes! world’s largest hunger strike for the repeal of AFSPA 1958. A civil right activist, a political activist and poet who is struggle for freedom (Azaadi) from AFSPA is none other than Irom Chanu Sharmila. Hats off to this brave lady whose voice is being suppressed by almost all political leaders and parties for their personal gains. Only few of the honorable Member of the Parliament advocated for the revocation of AFSPA, but the majority of the ruling and the opposition party were against the revocation.
The same act was passed in parliament in the year 1983 which was applicable for Punjab and Chandigarh but was withdrawn in 1997 after 14 long years. Also same act came into force in 1980 for Jammu and Kashmir and still in force. This act was to deal internal security of the nation between states by central government. The AFSPA act has roots of Britishers who first coined the act in 1942 to suppressed the “Quit India Movement”
Irom Sharmila started hunger strike in protest after Malom Massacre, demanding the Union government to revoke AFSPA from Manipur and do justice to the victims of the massacre. Instead of looking into the case and solving it, police arrested her on falsely charged with IPC section 309, an “attempt to commit suicide”. She was arrested, released and Re-arrested, which continued until long time in spite of her denial of committing suicide.
She became the “Icon of Public Resistance” by 2004 and started her strike at Jantar Mantar. She was the lead face in number of student organisations, human right activists and many citizens were in her support. Many of the Nobel-laureate and International Human Right activists supported the cause and assured to take the issue to United Nations Human Rights Council.
Gwangju Prize for Human Rights was conferred to Sharmila for “an outstanding person or group, who termed to be active in the promotion and advocacy of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights” in 2007.
The first Mayillama Award of the Mayilamma Foundation “for achievement of her nonviolent struggle in Manipur” was given to Irom Sharmila in 2009.
Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Human Rights Commission was conferred to Irom Sharmila in 2010, later she was also awarded Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, along with a cash award of 5,100,000 rupees, and the Sarva Gunah Sampannah “Award for Peace and Harmony” from the Signature Training Centre, was given to support her cause.
On 3 November 2011, 100 women formed a human chain in Ambari to show support for Irom Sharmila, while other civil society groups staged a 24-hour fast in a show of solidarity for her cause and being continued every year. In the same year Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) was launched to highlight Sharmila’s struggle and in December, Pune University announced a scholarship program for 39 female Manipuri students to take degree courses in honour of Irom Sharmila.
Sharmila’s cause had become the anti-AFSPA campaign since she started her struggle in 2000. Yet there is no response from past and present central government. Rahul Gandhi spoke on behalf of Rohit Vemula (HCU) and Kanhiya Kumar (JNU) in parliament but why not Irom Sharmila..? Modiji didn’t respond affirmatively on Rohit and Kanhiya issue in his 75mins speech as they are from Dalit and Communist background.
On the Eve of International Women’s Day, let our PM Modi be the keen listener on AFSPA, where Sharmila is trying to tell her “MANN KI BAAT”.