IMPHAL, `Nov 14 - Several women�s organisations staged a day-long sit-in protest yesterday demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, and to extend support to Irom Sharmila�s 16-year-old struggle to repeal the draconian Act.
The protest coincided with the celebration of the Ningol Chakkouba festival, during which married sisters and daughters are invited for special feasts by their fathers and brothers.
On this day, several organisations from different communities join the movement expressing solidarity with Irom Sharmila, besides voicing their demand for repeal of the AFSPA, on the Sharmila Kanba Lup premises at Porompat in Imphal East district.
Lamshang Hundi Women�s Society (MHWS), Thawanthaba Women�s Development Society (TWDS), Linthoinganbi Women�s Organisation (LWO), Welfare Association of Lup 18 (WWAL), Lamshang, Taothong, Porompat, Ayangpalli Women�s Organisation, Tammi Chingmi Apunba Lup (TCAL), Leiphrakpam Branch, Wangoi, also took part in the protest.
Irom Singhajit, the elder brother of Sharmila, also joined the protest and lamented that mainstream India remains silent on the issues relating to Army atrocities in Manipur.
�Our families stopped celebrating Ningol Chakouba ever since Sharmila began her fast in the year 2000, although this is a very special occasion in Manipur,� Singhajit said.
Echoing similar sentiments, president of MHWS Ami Pamei said, �We are here to support Sharmila by staging fast for one day, without celebrating Ningol Chakouba.�
Hasina Begum of TWDS said Muslim women are fully supportive of Irom Sharmila and �that is why we are here along with other communities to strengthen the movement against AFSPA.�
S Nongleima Leima, convenor of LWO, also expressed the organisation�s support for Sharmila and her struggle for AFSPA repeal.
Ema Sama of TCAL, Wangoi, expressed unhappiness over the complete silence by the ministers of Manipur on the issue for so many years. Momon Leima of SAKAL lamented that a military law was imposed in Manipur instead of a democratic law. �We stage this protest to spread the message of support to Sharmila�s struggle. SAKAL will also complete its seven years of support to her cause on December 10,� the convenor of SAKAL added.
Sharmila, the Iron lady of Manipur, began her fast unto death on November 2, 2000, at the age of 28 years, after 10 civilians were killed near Imphal by Assam Rifles personnel in retaliation to a bomb attack demanding repeal of the AFSPA. The Act gives virtual immunity to security forces to raid, arrest and kill people, and is seen by critics as a cover for human rights violations.
Sharmila was subsequently arrested on the charge of attempting to commit suicide under IPC 309. But she resumed her strike while in the custody, but the State authorities have been force-feeding her till date. She is released every time she completes a year�s jail term, only to be re-arrested the next day as she refuses to stop her strike.