From Gandhi to Sharmila
It started in November 2000 after she witnessed the massacre of 10 innocent civilians by government security forces in Malom, a small village on the outskirts of the capital of Imphal.
She has since campaigned for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) promulgated in the state to curb the insurgency. As the law provides the security forces unlimited powers and legal immunity for their actions, it has led to human rights abuses on the people of Manipur.
For the past 10 years, Sharmila has refused to eat on her own and remained steadfast to the fulfillment of her goal. She has been repeatedly arrested, released, and re-arrested on charges of attempting to commit suicide. Government authorities has kept her alive by confining her to the hospital where she’s force-fed through a nasal tube.
It can be said that a secessionist movement is alive and well in the state of Manipur and that the rebels are alleged to have perpetrated the same abuses that the special forces are accused of. The special forces, however, should realize that they are held to a higher standard since they represent the government. If repealing AFSPA can help keep the special forces in line, then it should be done immediately. It has been proven counterproductive, anyway, tending to promote the insurgency rather than discourage it.
Under the auspices of the Just Peace Foundation, a campaign was launched this year to bring about awareness to Sharmila’s cause. It’s called From Gandhi to Sharmila. It was launched on the 62nd death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi last January 30 and culminates on her birthday on March 14, By then, she will be 38 years old. There’s no doubt what she’d want on her birthday. Will the powers-that-be finally grant her wish?
For more information on Sharmila’s struggle, please click on the above picture.