On 2 November 2009, Manipur poet and activist Irom Sharmila, will enter the 10th year of her hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Introduced in 1958 the AFSPA grants the Indian military special powers throughout North-East India to:
- Arrest citizens and enter their property without warrant;
- Shoot and kill anyone on mere ‘suspicion’;
- Enjoy immunity against legal action.
Under the cover of the Act the Indian armed forces have indulged in killing, torture, enforced disappearances and rape, bringing great shame to India and much misery to the people of Manipur. According to the government appointed Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission ‘the Act has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.’ The United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination has urged the Indian government to repeal the law.
On 2 November, 2000 Irom Sharmila Chanu, a Manipuri poet decided to go on a hunger strike after the Indian Army massacred ten civilians in Malom, Manipur. On 6 November 2000 she was arrested by the police and charged with attempt to commit suicide under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Her health deteriorated gradually and she did not accept even a single drop of water.
On 21 November 2000 a plastic tube was inserted into her nose and liquid nutrient was inserted into her body. She has been surviving on this liquid diet and in solitary confinement as a high security prisoner for the last nearly ten years. She is routinely released every year only to be re-arrested again. This ritual has been going on for a decade now.
In solidarity with her local civil society, particularly the women, have been on a relay hunger strike since December 10, 2008. On the occasion of her struggle entering the tenth year, they are poised to celebrate her resilience as a “Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace”. We the following organisations are convinced that Sharmila’s struggle is not just to defend the human rights in Manipur, but in reality it is reshaping the very foundations of democracy in India. Therefore, it is important that all those who defend justice, peace and democracy to support her struggle. Hence, we wish to celebrate Sharmila’s courage and resilience as her struggle enters the 10th year from 2 to 6 November 2009 .