Rights activists fume over denial to meet Sharmila Nationwide campaign to be launched
Imphal, November 05: Outraged rights activists today slammed the government authorities for barring them from having an audience with Irom Sharmila announced that they will launch a countrywide campaign against the draconian AFSPA, 1958 in solidarity to Sharmila’s struggle.
On the other hand, a mass rally with the slogan “Save Sharmila, remove AFSPA immediately” was marched under the aegis of Sharmila Kanba Lup to mark the 10th year of the fast of Sharmila demanding the removal of the draconian, Armed Forces (Special) Power Act, 1958.
Authorities today refused rights activists who gathered at JNIMS Hospital, Imphal to call on Irom Sharmila, who is lodged in the security ward of the hospital and is being administered nasal feeding for the last 10-years.
A team of human rights activists from different parts of the country, as part of the five-day long “Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace” organized by Just Peace Foundation went to JNIMS Hospital even though the state home department refused to issue permission for an audience with Sharmila.
The team comprised of commissioner of Right to Food Harsh Mander, retired IPS officer KS Subramania, retired prof Uma Chakravarti, Karnataka based rights’ body People Watch director Henry Tifang, right activist and writer from Nagaland, Kaka D Irallu, Action Aid India Forum’s former director Babu Mathew, Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights’ former general secretary Neingulo Krome, advocate Ajuman R Begum, writer and right activist Joya Mitra, lawyer Vitra Gover, IPSA’s general secretary, Chitaranjan Singh, film maker KP Sashi, cultural activist Ojah and film maker and womens’ right activist Vani Subramanium.
Home Department without giving any reason turned down the permission sought by the organizers to have an audience with Sharmila. The health condition of the Iron Lady might be the reason behind the refusal as it was learnt that her health condition had deteriorated in the past few days.
After coming back from JNIMS Hospital, the rights’ activists went to BOAT where a public meeting as the concluding part of the mass rally was held. They criticized the Central as well as the State government for wrongly interpreting the struggle of Sharmila.
In a joint statement distributed at the meeting, they strongly protested against the fact that she is still kept in solitary confinement without any access to visitors or members of her family. “This is a travesty of justice that denies her right to liberty and freedom of speech.”
“We demand that the government put an immediate stop to her forced incarceration, allow her free access to visitation and respond to her demand for the repeal of the AFSPA which is a long-standing demand of the people of the sub-continent,” the statement signed by right activists declared.
“Sharmila is not a terrorist. She is not a Maoist. She is not a separatist. She is fighting for justice and peace for the people, and for humanity. Why should we be not allowed to meet her,” lamented rights’ activists coming from outside the state, speaking at a public meeting held at BOAT, Palace Compound after the mass rally organised by Sharmila Kanba Lup culminated.
“We are not satisfied with the attitude of the government. We should be allowed to meet her and convey out feelings and support to her struggle. We do not take the matter lightly. We will stage a protest in front of National Human Rights Commission in New Delhi,” said KS Subramania, a retired IPS officer who was among the rights activists who converged at JNIMS Hospital.
The mass rally organised by the Sharmila Kanba Lup marched from the JNIMS Hospital to the Palace Compound and was participated by people coming from different parts of the state including from the hill areas.
Sit-in protests were also staged by womenfolk at Keishamthong Market Shed and Tera Bazar demanding repeal of AFSPA and showing solidarity with Sharmila’s struggle. The protests started from 11 and went on till 4 pm.
Meanwhile, the five day long Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace being held in Imphal from November 2 to commemorate 10 years of Sharmila’s struggle against the draconian law will conclude tomorrow. However, rights’ activists from outside the state said that they will organise a countrywide campaign till December 10.