In India’s remote northeast, civilians challenge rape, killing by security forces #Vaw #AFSPA


Simon Denyer/The Washington Post – Irom Sharmila arrives for a fortnightly court appearance, flanked by two police officers, in the northeastern Indian city of Imphal on Feb. 7, 2013. Sharmila began a hunger strike in 2000 to protest against a controversial law that grants the Indian army virtual impunity from prosecution.

By Published: February 19

IMPHAL, India

Manipur, with a population of little more than 2 million, is tiny by Indian standards, and the country’s economic development of the past two decades has largely passed it by. Most of its residents are Hindus but are of Tibet-Burman origin and are thought to look more Burmese than Indian; they feel their countrymen look down on them. An armed separatist rebellion began here in the 1960s and has led to about 20,000 deaths.

For 12 years, a Manipuri woman, Irom Sharmila, has been on a hunger strike against the armed forces act. Having been convicted in court of intent to take her own life, she is under police guard in a hospital and force-fed through her nose.

Last week, Sharmila, 40, emerged from the hospital for a biweekly appearance in court, and, in an interview outside the courtroom, while being flanked by two female police officers, Sharmila said she was not optimistic that the government would relent any time soon.

The formation of committees is a tactic to deflect public anger, she said in halting English, and the people of Manipur are not given the respect accorded to other Indians.

“They treat us like stepchildren,” she said before police whisked her away.

Across town, 37-year-old Neena Ningombam has cared for her two children alone since her husband was taken away by police in November 2008. A few hours later his body, with a hand grenade planted next to it, was shown on television, supposedly that of a rebel killed after attacking the police.

In one sense, Ningombam is lucky. Witnesses saw her husband being arrested, and they have not been intimidated into silence. A local magistrate who investigated the case found that her husband had never been involved in a militant group and that he was killed in what is known here as a “fake encounter.”

Babloo Loitongbam of Human Rights Alert, a local rights group that has documented the alleged rapes and extrajudicial executions, said members of the security forces who kill militants are rewarded with cash, medals and promotions.

“An incentive structure has created vested interests in the army and police just to kill people on the flimsiest charges,” he said, “while the judicial process has completely failed.”

With Loitongbam’s help, the widows of Manipur are fighting back. Responding to a petitionthey have filed, the Supreme Court appointed a respected three-
person team last month to look into the alleged extrajudicial executions. Yet another committee of inquiry, it could nevertheless put more pressure on the government to roll back what residents describe as a cloak of impunity shrouding events in Manipur.

Like the other widows of Manipur, Ningombam continues her legal battle to clear her husband’s name.

In an opinion piece last week, Hazarika, the member of the 2005 commission and an expert on northeastern India, called the law an “abomination.”

“How many more deaths, how many more naked protests, how many more hunger strikes, how many more committees, how many more editorials and articles and broadcasts before AFSPA goes?” he asked.

 

Irom sharmila Scholarship #mustshare #AFSPA #vAW


iromflower

 

The Irom Sharmila Scholarship, set up in honour of Irom Sharmila’s fight for
democracy and constitutional values, is open to any graduate student
studying in any university/college in Delhi in any subject who comes from an
area with internal armed conflict. Preference will be given to those who
come from AFSPA affected areas, have suffered under AFSPA or similar laws or
can demonstrate financial need. The scholarship is a lump sum of Rs. 50,000,
awarded once a year. The scholarship jury will comprise of faculty from
different universities in Delhi. Interested candidates may send a covering
letter explaining why they should be considered, and a copy of their cv to:
iromsharmilascholarship@gmail.com. Applications must reach by March 14,
2013, which is Irom Sharmila’s birthday.

Manipur actor assault: Journalist killed in police firing during violent protests


Manipur, Posted on Dec 23, 2012 a

 

Imphal: A video journalist was shot dead when the police opened fire during violent protests against the alleged molestation of an actress in Imphal. The police opened fire when protesters tried to torch a police bus. The journalist took two bullets, including one in the chest.

The actress had alleged she was assaulted by an NSCN-IM worker while hosting a cultural event. She had said the security personnel present at the spot just stood by and watched. Violent protests erupted in the city with police bursting tear gas shell to disperse angry crowds while film and theatre artistes called for a bandh protesting against the alleged assault.

Protesters in the strike, which was called by the Manipur Film Forum, also pelted stones and vehicles and damaged a police van in Imphal. There were scenes of tyre burning and road blocking across the state’s capital. Life in Manipur has been crippled with shops, markets, business and entertainment houses closed and transport services cancelled.

 

Manipur’s Irom Sharmila: Our Irom Sharmila # Sundayreading #Poems


By- Upal Deb

“Thunder will blow away/

Storms too are ephemeral/

though shameless, the dark force will bid farewell/

to beauty someday//

Spring goes on endless”.

This is how a young Manipuri poet sings the heart of everybody of his state. Spring in heart can wait. But this heart will sing on. Till the boots and bullets bid farewell. The heart of hearts, our Meira Paibi, this is how a Kerala playwright dubbed IROM SHARMILA, a torch-bearer….can rekindle a hope, or awaken us cautiously to the spite of state laws. Sharmila is a champion to the cause of human rights in her state. Specifically, she is seeking the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), an emergency legislation that has been in force in Manipur since 1980, under which the right to life lies suspended. Fake encounters, torture, rapes and the disappearance of ordinary citizens are commonplace in regions that come under AFSPA. Since November 2000, when a group of soldiers from the Assam Rifles shot dead a 10 civilians standing at a bus-stop, she has refused to eat, drink or even brush her teeth, she has not seen her mother too since the fast began. Charged with trying to commit suicide, she has been repeatedly arrested, detained and force-fed by tubes inserted into her nose twice a day. Her sacrifice focuses on a struggle barely glimpsed in the rest of India, let among the wider world. A decades-long insurgency by up to 50 armed groups and the subsequent rule by troops may only see a saturnalia where as a poet from different land said, “Between the closed eyes/ in the air all black”. Rule of the gun in a lunatic frenzy. But Manipur survives on hope. Blood its witness.
This post of poems offers a peep into poetic responses to a state in siege, offers a nod to the resilience of Sharmila and her people. Needless to say, her people include us all living between death-wish and dream of spring, between wounds of dawn and songs of life.

1. ~YES~/ K.Satchidanandan (Malayalam)
(For Irom Sharmila)

My body is
my flag at half-mast.
My water comes
from Tomorrow’s river,
my bread,
from the wind’s kitchen.
In my brain is a bullet,
green like the clairvoyante’s parrot.

My name is the last letter
of my ancient language,
the final answer to every riddle,
the moral of every proverb,
the god of every magic chant,
the ominous truth of every oracle.

My life leaves me everyday
and everyday it comes back
like the bird that survives the hunters
to return to its nest
with the odour of the forest-rain.

In the night emptied of
the morning’s greetings
and the evening’s prayers,
I lie alone under one desolate star
like the broken bench
in an abandoned village teashop
holding on still
to the warmth and odour
of yesterday’s visitors.

I have forgotten love
like the nameless flower
once seen in a flash
on a village hillock;

my childhood lies sunk in the sand
like the paper boat
pulped by the heavy rain.

My poems are the autumn’s
last yellow leaves.

My kids turned into vapour
by the echoes of rifles’ reports
will come down heavily
as a rain of blood
over those soldiers of hell.

I won’t be there; but
my hope will be :
a word from the mountain
that doesn’t need to be tube-fed,
a poem from the woods
no boots can crush,
an alphabet of steel
no bayonet can pierce,
a purple hibiscus:

My Manipur heart
ever in bloom.

(TR: By the poet from the original Malayalam. K. Satchidanandan is one of India’s finest poets and a respected critic. He was a nominee for the Nobel literature prize in 2011).

2. ~Ibomcha Singh~/Subodh Sarkar (Bengali)

’95, in a wintry Delhi, in a poetry reading
at Sahitya Akademi,
Ibomcha Singh twittered out like a bird:
–Come in my homeland, at Manipur’s Moirang

Moirang, what a lovely name it is, who named it?
Just in a distance, Asia’s most beautiful lake, Loktak,
A colour like a child’s gum.
There’s nothing lovelier than
a child’s gum.

In the midnight, from Manipur a phone call: Ibomcha Singh
I said: what’s happening there in your state?

–What’s happening? Don’t you all know this?
If tomorrow the Assam Rifles
barge into Tagore’s Jorasanko household
and masturbate in front of Rabindranath?
How will you feel?
If tomorrow at the Gariahat Road a teacher
is stripped and made to do rounds of
sit-down stand-up before his students?
How will you feel?
If tomorrow the daughter of your Sankha Ghosh
is bundled off? How will you feel?

Ibomcha Singh was in tears

I sat motionless
Did he call from Manipur?
Or from across India?
Nine hills surrounding
the Loktak Lake are fading out
Trucks of the Assam Rifles
march through these hills
Did they kidnap Manorama, did they?

Did Ibomcha Singh call me,
Or was it anyone else?
His daughter can’t go to the school
If she doesn’t return!
No, how can this be possible,
we have one Constitution
who has scripted another?

–The military can quarantine you
You cannot lead a nation with them
Even the military know this
and you do not know this?

(Tr: Upal Deb from Bengali. Subodh Sarkar is a well-known name in contemporary Bengali poetry. His poetry is often marked by mordant irony and insights into our social dynamics).

3. ~ Sister~/ Saratchand Thiyam (Manipuri)

This rain has not let up
Don’t get out yet, sister.

It’s only a semblance of afternoon
After it decided to live in
With its paramour Night
This is no longer the afternoon we know

Your umbrella alone will be useless, sister
You’ll not be able to cover
Your body from the raindrops.

Haven’t you heard this sound
The commotion in every home
Of the still incoherent babies.
Don’t you go sister
This rain is only becoming harder
Don’t you go sister
Don’t you go.

Look sister, every courtyard
Has become
Mangarak kanbi*
Since, I won’t allow to go
Every road is reverberating
With the deafening utterance of boots.

Hide inside the house, sister
Don’t you go at all

*Mangarak kanbi is a place in Manipur. Early Meiteis used to throw
the bodies of people who died unnatural deaths in Mangarak kanbi.

(TR: Robin S. Ngangom from Manipuri. A very popular poet, Saratchand Thiyam is
also a sports columnist. He is an engineer by profession).

4. ~Manipur~/Mona Lisa Jena (Odia)

The soldiers can recognize
They can sense the stench
A roof without walls on the wayside
Breathing of eleven dead human beings
It smothers their lungs….
How many years more
till her petition lies unanswered?
Alone,
She gasps out these days
in a mud hut, walled by gun point
An ordinary young woman, dogged to the core,
She is not afraid of working hard
She does not beg anyone….
Like this, one morning
Many, many days ago
A morsels of rice ran short
In the Ima Market
Thousands of ‘mothers’ had assembled
At Kangla’s main roads
Not even a smidgen
of rice could be shipped way from their country.
Like this
Just recently,
They had uncovered their bosoms and humiliated
the unashamed administrators

And yet,
They were not shameless.
They did not vend their semi-naked body
In the market place
At the Ima Market
Of women only.

From the long over bridge
One can see clear
their carnival, all tinctured in crimson
because many women are together
they do not ripple out
A sea of flames….

Their dust-laden sobbing
And the flashes
wafting in fitfully
leave trails in the heart:
It is painful to be a woman!

(TR: By the poet from Odia. Monalisa Jena is a promising Odia short story writer and poet.).

5. ~Manipur: 2~/ Thaudam Netrojit Singh (Manipuri)

What’s the crime of these children,
Are they disinherited from life?
Why do they ride the cremation-bed?
In your inviting lap
are they so fond of death
like nectar-like mother’s milk?

The paths to the cremation ground
are all mud today
Mothers’ tears mingle with
blood of the cremation
in dry colours of the red rose

Say
for whom is the door
of the vacant room open
before the despairing heart of the veiled mothers?

What else can you hear
other than sad sound of the cymbals and
mridangam?
Have you ever heard
love songs echoing back, floating from
a land of peace?
Did the generous men sing paeans
in the infinite sky for you alone
in hope of flying till eternity
in wings of white pigeons
whose feet are tied with
garlands?

No
You’re only the night without a face
Even your blue sky
pales in smoke.

(37-year old Thaudam Netrojit Singh is an up-and-coming Manipuri poet, playwright and story writer).

6. ~Death of a Poet~/ Irungbom Deven (Manipuri)

In a closed abandoned room
lies a decomposed corpse
rotten, putrid
body of some poet
Cause of his death
still unknown
The police let out offhand:
This is a suicide
People around whisper:
This is certainly a murder
Whatever
the reality is
he is dead
With his poems in hand
the police finally say:
They are his suicide note.

7. ~News of My Death~/ Irungbom Deven

1
Last night an unknown man
was mercilessly killed
The body was not found
Combing operation is on

2
Morning
Evening
Night
I walk on endlessly
towards the unknown
I walk
my dead body
on the shoulders.

3
On the front page
of the newspapers
the news of my death
with photos

I am reading this news!

(TR: 5, 6 and 7 by Upal Deb from Bengali translation of original Manipuri poems. Irungbom Deven is a leading Manipuri poet. He is a professional doctor).

 

Irom Sharmila -On hunger strike for 12 years , will continue


 

 

Irom Sharmila in India’s Manipur state is force-fed in detention, but refuses to give up protest against draconian Act.
Subir Bhaumik Last Modified: 08 Nov 2012, Al Jazeera 

Irom Sharmila has been demanding the repeal of a law that allows troops to act with impunity [AFP]

Frail and suffering after being on fast for more than 12 years, Irom Sharmila proclaims she will die on hunger strike unless India repeals the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) .

The AFSPA gives security forces sweeping powers,including the power to shoot people dead on mere suspicion, while operating in areas afflicted by rebellions – like in Sharmila’s Manipur state on India’s far eastern border with Myanmar (Burma).

“How can men in uniform enjoy such powers in a democracy which they so often misuse? This Act must be repealed if India  is serious about its democracy. Or else, I will continue my hunger-strike until I die,” says the frail Sharmila , who turned 40 on March 14 this year.

On November 2, 2000, troops of India’s elite counter-insurgency force Assam Rifles opened indiscriminate fire on a market at Malom near Manipur’s state capital Imphal. Ten civilians were killed on the spot – among them a 60-year-old woman and three teenage boys, one of whom had won the Prime Minister’s Award for Bravery.

The Assam Rifles forces were upset after one of Manipur’s more than a dozen rebel groups attacked one of their patrols – but the people they killed in retaliation were innocent civilians who had no involvement in the attack.

“That was a Thursday, the day I used to fast every week. I was so shocked by the massacre at Malom that I just decided to continue my fast unless the draconian law was repealed,” Sharmila said, lying on her bed in the Imphal hospital, where she is held in “judicial custody” and force-fed every day through a tube in her nose to keep her alive.

“This is a symbolic fight for the people of Manipur who have suffered so much at the hands of the security forces. Hundreds of our boys and girls have been killed on mere suspicion of being rebels. This is possible because the
AFSPA gives so much power to the security forces. This Act must go,” she said.

Brother Irom Singhajit Singh recalls that his sister had one last supper with pastries and sweets, then touched her mother’s feet to seek her blessings to begin the epic fast.

Popular weapon

Hunger strike has been a popular weapon of protest in India since Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, popularised it during the anti-colonial struggle. But nobody has been on fast longer than Sharmila.

Manipur has been ravaged by four decades of separatist insurgency, with close to a dozen groups involved in fighting Indian forces and, often, amongst themselves. Thousands have died – among them, many young men and women killed on mere suspicion of involvement with the rebel groups.

Once in a while, Manipur has erupted over such killings, as it happened eight years ago, when another young girl Thangjam Manorama was allegedly raped and shot by the Assam Rifles soldiers and left to die on a village road.

The Indian federal government set up a high power committee to look into the popular demand of scrapping the AFSPA, perhaps to pacify the people’s anger.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive , because if she dies, there may be an uproar.”

– Babloo Loithongbam, Human Rights activist

The five-member committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge Jeevan Reddy, unanimously recommended for repeal of the draconian AFSPA.

But under severe pressure from the Army and the para-military forces, the federal government backed off, even refusing to place the committee’s report for discussion in the parliament.

The Army says that it cannot operate against armed rebels unless covered by this AFSPA.

“Either keep the AFSPA and allow us to use it or don’t involve us in counter-insurgency operations. We will be happy to be back in our barracks,” says former Indian Army chief General Shankar Roychowdhury .

For the past 50 years, the Indian army and its para-military troops have battled scores of rebel groups in the country’s troubled Northeastern states, a region considered strategic by Delhi because it is hemmed in between Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Nepal and Bhutan.

Last year, a group of 25 civil rights activists from across the country, went on a long march from the rebellion-scarred state of Jammu and Kashmir all the way to Manipur on the India-Myanmar border to draw attention to Sharmila’s epic fast and the cause for which she has sacrificed her youth.

The protest march attracted global media attention and rights activists across the world came out to express solidarity with Sharmila’s epic hunger strike to demand scrapping of the controversial AFSPA.

But it had no effect on Delhi as the Indian government conveniently turned the other way, retaining the AFSPA and ignoring the march and the world’s longest hunger strike.

“The government has just one agenda now. To keep Sharmila alive, because if she dies, there may be an uproar,” says Manipur’s leading human rights activist Babloo Loithongbam.

The ‘Iron Lady of Manipur

Three days after she started her hunger strike, Irom Sharmila was arrested and charged with “attempting to commit suicide”. Since then, she has been force-fed through a tube in her nose. Every year, she is released once and then promptly re-arrested on the same charges and the routine goes on.

Back in her heavily-guarded hospital ward, Sharmila is unmoved and determined to carry forward her struggle.

“I fast until the AFSPA goes. I have not wasted 12 years of my life to back off. Either my people live with respect or I don’t eat,” says Irom Sharmila, now called the “Iron Lady of Manipur” for her historic feat.

Brother Singhajit remembers his sister as being “always different “.

“She was always modest with few friends, never liked to dress up or use jewellery. She read religious books, practiced yoga and naturopathy,” he says. “She has not changed a bit.”

In her years of hunger strike, Sharmila has won many awards, including one for lifetime achievement from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

Nobel Laureate Shirin Ebadi has promised to take up her case before the United Nations.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens.”

– Irom Sharmila

Two Indian politicial parties, the Trinamul Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) or CPI(M-L), have supported Sharmila’s cause and her hunger strike, joining the chorus for scrapping the controversial AFSPA.

But while the Trinamul Congress rules the eastern state of West Bengal and has some lawmakers in northeastern states like Sharmila’s home state Manipur, the CPI(M-L) is on the margins of Indian politics.

In recent weeks, the chief minister of the troubled northern state of Jammu and Kashmir, Omar Abdullah, who represents the regional party, National Conference, has pitched in to support Sharmila’s demand for scrapping the AFSPA.  Abdullah says the Act is often misused by security forces while fighting rebel groups and civilians end up as victims of their excesses.

But no major political party in India has so far come out in support of the “Iron Lady” who is making history by her unique protest.

That does not worry Sharmila much.

“I will do my duty, I will do what I have to for my people, without really bothering what happens,” says Sharmila.

#Irom Sharmila completes 12 years of Fasting , Anna Hazare’s fast……


आज मेरा रोम रोम चीख रहा है 
एरोम तुम्हारे लिए
चीख पुकार तो कब से दबी थी
गुस्सा भी चीख चीख के निकला था
vt स्टेशन पे तुम्हारी रिहाई की गुहार लगाकर
मानों तन और मनं ऐसा थरका था
लोगों को तुम्हारे बारे में बताना
लोगों को अफ्प्सा काले कानून के बारे में बता कर
मानो मनं कुछ तो हल्का हुआ था

लेकिन कुछ दिन से इस देश की गुहार देखकर 
अन्ना हजारे पर प्यार देख कर
देश के कोने कोने से भर्ष्टाचार के यह एक आवाज़ सुनकर
खुश तो हूँ,
पर मेरा दिल चीख चीख के रो रहा है
मेरा दिमाग, मेरा तन…. इस क्रांति पे खुश है
पर मेरा दिल मेरा साथ नहीं है
मेरा दिल तम्हारे पास है इरोम
वोह तुम्हारे लिए रो रहा है
वोह इस देश को समझ नहीं पा रहा है
आखिर एक दिल है……

तुम दस सालसे भी ज्यादा से भूख हड़ताल पे हो
तुम्हारे साथ एक भी भारतवासी नहीं आया
तुम AFSPA के काले कानून के खिलाफ हो
तुम्हें किसी ने नहीं अपनाया

किसी को मत बताना इरोम
यह एक ऐसी पहेली है
जिसका जवाब इंसानों के साथ बदलता हैं
हम अन्ना हजारे के साथ है
यह हमारी देश भक्ति है
हम अन्ना हजरे के साथ है
हम आम जनता के साथ है

जब हम तुम्हारे साथ है 
हम देशद्रोही है
जब तुम्हारे साथ हैं
हम फ़ौज और जवानों के खिलाफ है
हम इस देश की सुरक्षा के खिलाफ है

भ्रष्टाचार तो बचपन से हमें
हमारी किताबों में भी एक गलत चीज़ है बताया गया है
पर इरोम, देश भक्ति हमें
केवल अपने देश को बचाना ही सिखाएगी

देश, फ़ौज , पोलिस—देश भक्ति का अटूट अंग बन गए हैं
वह मेरी तुम्हरी लड़ाई में हमारे दुश्मन बन गए हैं
भ्रष्टाचार में लाखों करोड़ों के घपले हैं
पर अफ्प्सा , जैसे काले कानून के कारण
इस देश भक्ति के कारण
लाखों करोड़ों देशवासी मौत की नीद सो गए गए है
उनके मरने से उनके परिवार भी मर गए हैं
और हम सब उनको आतंकवादी के नाम देकर….
देशभक्ति का प्रमाण देकर कहीं सो गए

इरोम, हम सरकार की इस बर्बरता को
देशभक्ति के परदे में देख नहीं पाते
कब हमारे देश वासी जागेंगे
और हम देश वासी बाद में , पहले इंसान है
इस एहसास को जान पायेंगे

कब इरोम कब 
कब हजारों लाखों तुम्हारे साथ भी
भूख हड़ताल पे जायेंगे
कब इरोम कब
हमारे देशवासी
इस देशभक्ति का
मुखोटा हटाएँगे

अन्ना हजारे तुम्हारी जीत हो गयी है
तुम्हारे ८५ घंटों के अनशन से
लोकपाल बिल आएगा…….
इरोम शर्मीला के दशक के अनशन पे
AFPSA हटा नहीं है
अन्ना क्या आप इरोम के साथ बैठोगे ?
क्या आप कानून के नाम पर जो लहू बह रहा है ?
उसको रोक पाओगे ?

( This poem I wrote last year in april after the Anna illusion began )

English Translation

Today every pore of my body is screaming 
For you Irom
The screams were suppressed since when…
Anger was coming out in my screams and protests
As I was screaming and shouting for your release at VT station
My being had shaken within
To tell people about you, what you stand for
To tell people about draconian law AFPSA
I felt lighter

For the past few days the country has been screaming
I am happy to see
All the love being doled out to Anna Hazare
To hear voice against corruption
From nook and corner of each city
I am happy to see
But my heart is crying
My brain is happy thinking about this Anna revolution
But my heart is not with me
My heart is with you Irom
It is crying for you
And it is unable to understand the sentiments of this country

After all it’s a HEART
You have been on hunger strike for more than a decade
But not a single Indian came with you
You were against the black law of AFPSA
But no one owned you

Do not tell anyone Irom
This is a riddle
Whose answer changes with people?
If we are with Anna Hazare
We are true patriots
If we are with Anna Hazare
We are with the common people

When we are with you
We are traitors
When we are with you
We are against our army, our soldiers
We are against the national security
Corruption has been embedded as a bad trait
Since our childhood in our text books

But Irom, patriotism
Only teaches us to defend our country
Nation, army, police are inherent features of patriotism
They have become enemies in our fight for freedom

There have been many scams of crores under the banner of corruption
Because of AFSPA, BECAUSE OF THS PATRIOTISM
Lakhs and crores of Indians have been killed
Their families have also died eventually
And we have given them the certificate of terrorists
Very conveniently and gone to sleep in the bed of patriotism

Irom, we are unable to see the human rights violation of government
Under the garb of patriotism
When will my countrymen awaken, to the fact that
We are humans first, and Indians later

When Irom, when
Lakhs of people will join you in your hunger strike?
When Irom, when
Will our people remove the
Mask of patriotism?

Anna Hazare, you have won
After 85 hours of your FAST
The Lokpal Bill will be implemented
After a decade of your fast
Still the AFSPA has not been repealed
Anna will you sit with Irom?
Will you be able to stop the bloodshed
In the name of law?

Listen to my recitation at CGNET SWARA

Kabir Suman recites the Bangla Translation of my poem

Faking Democracy- Free Irom Sharmila Now

 

‘ #Irom Sharmila feels fasting is what she is meant to do in life’


Irom Sharmila in her hospital ward prison

Rediff.com, Nov 5, 2012

Today, Irom Sharmila, the Manipur civil rights activist, marks 12 years of her fast in protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state. She remains in judicial custody where she continues to be force-fed through her nose.

Deepti Priya Mehrotra, author of Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur, recalls her association with the Iron Lady of Manipur.

I met her initially in October 2006 in Delhi just to pay my respects. But I kept going back to her, and met her on multiple occasions in the months to come. I found that she was extremely friendly and takes great interest in people and things around her.

She is very attractive, and is very sharp, quick and reactive. We hit it off and started chatting the instant we met. She really wants to know so much. She asked me questions about myself and asked what I teach — who were my students, how I travelled. I found that she preferred to do things the economical way; she would have preferred the bus.

She also started telling me about her own family. She is the youngest of nine brothers and sisters. She is very close to her family and extended family members who all live nearby in a village at the edge of Imphal.

She spoke very fondly of Manipur — her motherland, her birthplace, and has a sense of deep commitment, passion and involvement for it. She is also very close to many people in different generations of her extended family. She was readily involved with what other people in her family did, like spinning. She also liked to walk, and used to cycle around in Manipur.

She told me about her early school days. She said she didn’t like books in school.

Sharmila studied till class XII, and never went to college. The problem with text books, she said, was that they didn’t tell her anything about real life.

I feel the violence she witnessed triggered her poetry. She just couldn’t accept the violence and wanted to do something about it.

And then, one day, after the massacre at Malom village [an alleged encounter by Assam Rifles resulted in the death of 10 people in November 2000], she decided she had to do something. The next morning, she sought blessings from her mother and her elder brother, and the long fast began. I don’t feel that she could have gauged how long the fast would be. I doubt if she still thinks about it.

But she surely is very fond of food. When I met her in a jail in Imphal in 2007, the first question she asked me was if I had tasted Manipuri curries. She said she would cook for me once and then explained the dishes and ingredients in much detail.

She does have some skills in cooking. She is a vegetarian, a rarity in her family and the community.

Coming back to her education, Sharmila never attended college even though she experimented with many options after school. She learnt tailoring, worked with a social group for blind children, but it was her assignment a month before taking up the fast that I believe led her to a very strong belief in what she was doing.

The human rights group she was part of trained her for a few weeks about the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, and then she went along with this team to meet a cross-section of people. I feel it must have brought her to a kind of boiling point. She saw rape victims, spoke to them, went to villages where people had disappeared.

Irom Sharmila is produced at the chief judicial magistrate's court in Imphal every fortnight

I feel that she also connected very deeply with the Meira Paibis, a group of old local women, who have traditionally saved the community from alcohol and drugs, and later from the atrocities by the armed forces. This group is very special to Manipuri society and is present in every village. I feel she felt very strongly connected to them.

But as a person, I often think of her as a very quiet girl, sitting quietly in a corner, observing, feeling and thinking, and taking everything in. She is a very vibrant person, very warm, polite and close to nature.

She was briefly shifted to Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital in Delhi in 2006, and could move around in a garden closeby. I remember one evening, she saw a squirrel and wanted to know everything about it.

During her stay in Delhi, I always found a pile of book neatly stacked next to her bed. Among those books was a Quran, the Bible, Upanishads, books on Buddhism, religion and poetry. She also read Manipuri newspaper and Japanese folk stories.

I think she was really happy when she was in Delhi, because she could meet people. But when she is imprisoned in Manipur, she is not allowed to meet anybody. I mean, she is arrested every year on charges of trying to commit suicide because she refuses to eat. She has not been arrested as a political prisoner.

And so she is imprisoned for a maximum duration of one year, freed for a few days, and then arrested again.

You would be surprised to know that she has neither spoken to nor met her mother ever since she undertook the fast. She believes that her mother would be very unhappy with her not eating and that might make her weak. Her mother has not met her for the same reasons.

There is a small hut a little distance away from the prison in Imphal. Each year she stays in that hut for while, before she is re-arrested. And her demand is a single sentence: repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state.

I have often asked her family members the question: where does she get her strength from? And I remember her elder brother once said to me, “I will tell you where she gets her strength from. It’s our grandmother.” Her grandmother lived for 104 years.(Smiles)

Lots of people suspect that people pressurise her to stay her on fast. Also because the fast has been very effective, there is no doubt that it brought international attention to the state and its people.

But I don’t think she feels any pressure to continue it. The government and the authorities would love it if she breaks the fast. They will immediately grant her bail and close the case. It has become a big irritant for the government.

She feels that undertaking the fast is what she is meant to do in life. She believes deeply that that’s her purpose, and that’s what God wants her to do.

As told to Priyanka.

 

Image: Irom Sharmila in her hospital ward prison
Photographs: Chitra Ahanthem

 

AFSPA should be scrapped totally and not just from Manipur




November 2, 2012 by Imphal Free Press | 

IMPHAL, November 2: “Chittanranjan na thawaigi pontha pokhiba amadi Irom Chanu Sharmila na chahi taranithoi chara hel-lkpa” was organised today by the Apunba Nupi Lup Bishnupur.

The original venue of the function was supposed to be Bishnupur market, but due to permit issues, it was held at Yangoi Ningthou Yangoi Leima Shanglen, Bishnupur.

IFP Resident Editor speaking at Bishnupur on AFSPA on Friday

IFP Resident Editor speaking at Bishnupur on AFSPA on Friday

Resident Editor Imphal Free Press Irengbam Arun, Asst Prof Dept of Economic, MU Dr Chinglen Meisnam, author of Sharmila: A Mission of Peace Dr Oinam Kulabidhu spoke as resource persons.

Delivering his speech IFP Editor Irengbam Arun said that there are three events which would always identify with the struggle against AFSPA which are Sharmila’s 12 years long fast, Pebam Chittanranjan’s suicide and the women nude protest at Kangla gate.

Delivering awareness to the participating young students, he said, Manipur is within the democratic boundary of India where suspected individuals are caught by the police and are supposed to be produced before the court and punish accordingly.

He said that in Manipur, however the security personnel especially the Indian military forces are given extra immunity and act themselves as police and judge and sometime kills a person without any judgement.

He elaborated that this Act lending extra arms power to the Indian military treats the people of Manipur like animals which has resulted in the loss of many lives in Manipur.

The Editor was also of the opinion that the time has come for all to echo together against the Act and its total deletion from the country.

He said that if the Act is removed only from Manipur, then it will still be imposed in other states where the people will continue to suffer.

He also pointed out that Mahatma Gandhi had fought with Non Violence for freedom and that his five days of fast was affective while, Sharmila’s 12 years of fasting is yet to bear any fruit.

He concluded by saying that it is time for the people to really understand the threatening solution in Manipur and find a concrete solution.

Dr Chinglen Meisnam said that AFSPA is benefiting some people which he called the ‘profiteer of conflict’.

He said that this is a serious issue that all the people of Manipur must understand and participate.

He said that young generations of Manipur are lacking in understanding this crucial situation which will lead to short term gain and long term pain.

As part of the function a rally was also held from the function venue to Chittanranjan’s death spot at Bishnupur Bazar where floral tributes were paid.

The 10 innocent deceased family committee also organised floral tribute at the tomb of Malom massacre spot where 10 innocent people were gunned down while waiting for bus at Malom bus parking, Boroi Makhong.

 

Day-long fast to highlight 12 years of struggle of #Irom Sharmila


 

By TCN News,

New Delhi: Volunteers and supporters of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) observed a day long fast at Jantar Mantar on November 4 to highlight 12 years of struggle of Irom.

SSSC is a nation-wide solidarity group against the neglect and suppression of Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri poet-activist who has been on a hunger-protest for 12 years now, on a protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur.

 

 

On November 5, she is completing 12 years of her hunger-protest.

Babloo Lothingam from Just Peace Foundation of Manipur also participated. Various students from colleges and civil rights activists such as writer Pankaj Singh, Mehtab Alam, and social activist Bilal Sultan from J&K were also present.

Devika Mittal of SSSC said, “We want to send out the message that she is not alone. We are with her. We feel for Irom because she is a true democrat and a citizen of this country. She has every right to be heard. Her struggle shows her faith in democracy and non-violence.” She added, “The Government must initiate talks with her.”

Ravi Nitesh, another core member of SSSC, remarked, “It cannot be denied that AFSPA has created problems in Manipur and other AFSPA-imposed states and it ruptured the normal life of people of these states.”

Gufran Khan, a volunteer for SSSC added, “If the government is not willing to do anything on this aspect, the judiciary must intervene as its about the violation of human lives.”

In another step to highlight the struggle, SSSC had also organised an article-series on Irom Sharmila wherein articles were invited from the public and were published on the website. 12 articles were selected and one article was published every day to symbolize one year of fast. This will conclude on 5th November.

A memorandum was also submitted to the Prime Minister of India with a copy to Ministry of Home Affairs and NHRC to demand the government to initiate the dialogue with her.

 

#India- #Irom Sharmila completes 12 years of protest against AFSPA MANIPUR #draconianlaw


,Posted on Nov 05, 2012 at 12:22pm IST

Imphal: Irom Sharmila, Manipur‘s ‘Iron Lady‘, on Monday completed 12 years of protest demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). On an indefinite fast, Sharmila, who is force-fed through the nose to keep her alive began her fast till death after ten persons, including a boy who received the national bravery award, were shot dead in an alleged encounter with Assam Rifles personnel at Malom near Imphal airport on November 2, 2000.

A newspaper columnist and social worker then, Sharmila, went on fast on November 5 that year demanding repeal of AFSPA. She was arrested a day later and charged with attempt to commit suicide. Since then she has been produced in court from time to time, rearrested and produced again in court.

She is force fed at a government hospital at Porompat where the ward she is in has been converted into a jail. Sharmila has received several global awards and several prominent personalities from different parts of the country have visited her in support of her demands.

Her brother and spokesman Irom Singhajit said social organisations including Just Peace Foundation would hold candlelight demonstrations in Imphal while public discussions would be held during the day. Official sources said security and police forces would be deployed in various parts of the city as a precautionary measure.

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