Irom Sharmila’s Anguished Appeal to Women of India

Irom Sharmila on a hunger fast for the past 15 years, and released from detention by a court in Imphal, Manipur on Monday, February 29,  has appealed to the women of India for support to her cause.

Irom Sharmila had started her hunger strike on November 4, 2000 demanding a repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958. In an open appeal issued on March 1, she has addressed Indian women activists on two issues. One, she wants active support for repeal of AFSPA and second, she wants an open discussion on whether her fast should continue. The existence of AFSPA on the statute books has ensured impunity for India's armed forces for repeated human rights violations against Manipuri people, especially women.

A court in Imphal on February 29, 2016 released Irom Sharmila, who has been on a 15-year-long hunger strike to press for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, from custody. On her release Sharmila Irom is quoted by the media to have said,  “I shall continue the fast at the footsteps of the Shahid Minar in Imphal town. I will not eat anything till my goal is achieved,” she said while coming out of the court room. She also expressed regret over the declining support to her cause, particularly from women activists.

“I am sorry that women activists and civil society organisations have distanced themselves from me and my cause. If they had extended support to my campaign, perhaps by now the AFSPA, which gives carte blanche to the security forces, might have been repealed,” she said. She further said, “I am not discouraged by the lack of support since I know that victory will be there at last.”

“Sharmila was charged with attempting to commit suicide under Section 309 of IPC. However the court found no evidence to establish that she is trying to commit suicide and accordingly ordered her release,” C. Momon, Sharmila’s advocate, told reporters in Imphal. Local media has reported that given Sharmila’s condition and her resolve to continue her fast unto death, she may be re-arrested soon, a police officer is quoted to have said.

She has been arrested, tried and released several times on the charge of trying to take her own life. Sharmila is also undergoing trial in the Patiala House court in Delhi on the same charge.

Until her release in Imphal on February 29, Sharmila was lodged in a security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. She is guarded round-the-clock by jail, police and hospital staff. The government is spending about Rs.70,000 a month on her medication and feeding her through the nose.

Appeal for:

– A collective statement by women and other activists to the President, Prime Minister and other authorities.
– Launching a  'Save Sharmila' campaign  among students.
– All ex-army men  writing a joint representation to the authorities.
– A day-long fast in solidarity and a message to Sharmila Irom.



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