People must back anti-AFSPA movement: Irom Sharmila

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 08, 2013 05:17 hrs
'Iron lady' Irom Sharmila completes 12 years of fast

Imphal: Reiterating her decision to not accept awards till the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is withdrawn, Manipur's "Iron Lady" Irom Sharmila Chanu said people of the state must strengthen the movement against the "inhuman law".

"What I want is not awards. I want more people to support to strengthen the movement against the act," Sharmila told journalists on Thursday after she was produced before the court of Judicial Magistrate Alec Muivah here.

The renowned rights activist has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2, 2000 in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home.

"It is only a matter of time before I achieve my goal. I also want to live like a normal person. So those who want to confer awards on me can come to Imphal and stand beside me after my release from jail and before re-arrest," she said.

She was arrested after she began her protest and was charged with attempt to suicide.

Sharmila was sent to a prison hospital in Imphal where she has been force-fed via a nasal drip. She is currently lodged in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here.

Even as she vowed to continue with her fast, Sharmila said her struggle to repeal the draconian act would depend entirely on the people of the state.

"If people of the state and political leaders do not raise their voices against this inhuman law, they (people of Manipur) would remain forever as stepsons of India," Sharmila stated.

AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in the states that have been declared "disturbed areas" riddled with militancy. Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur are amongst the states under the act.

Several human rights groups, including the North East Students' Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA.

Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a violation of international human rights laws.

However, army officials maintain that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue AFSPA.

"Human right groups never speak against the violence committed against security forces. For the men in uniform, the AFSPA gives them human rights protection," said an army official involved in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur.

In view of the outcry against AFSPA, the central government had appointed a five-member committee headed by Supreme Court Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy a few years ago to examine whether the legislated law was required or not.

After visiting all affected states, the committee submitted its report to the central government in October 2006. The union government has not yet made the findings public.

The Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Veerappa Moily has recommended that the controversial act must be reviewed.

Meghalaya governor R.S. Mooshahary, who favoured the repeal of AFSPA, has said: "AFSPA should be repealed and the Criminal Procedure Code must be amended to protect the rights of security forces and civilians."

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