Women's organizations on indefinite relay fast in imphal

Women's organizations on indefinite relay fast in imphal

Women's organizations in Manipur, co-ordinated by 'meira paibee' (mothers' organization), have come together as 'sharmila kanba lup' (save sharmila group) to launch an indefinite hunger strike since the international human rights day, 10 December 2008, this year, with the slogan 'save sharmila, repeal AFSPA'.

Hundreds of women from nearby areas arrive every morning and sit for the entire day and next day it is the turn of women from another locality. With a strong network of 'meira paibees' in manipur the movement is self - propelling. Groups of women are coming in by reading about the protest in local newspapers.

The fast is going on at PDA complex, next to Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital in Imphal, where Irom Chanu Sharmila is under arrest in a hospital ward. She is charged with attempt to commit suicide.

It is now the 8th year continuing of Irom Sharmila's fast! Her demand is very simple - 'Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)'. But the government has now even stopped talking to her. Recently in protest she even gave up nasal feed, which has kept her alive, but later the doctors and jail staff convinced her to resume nasal feed. One can only imagine how she can go on being fed through nose every day for 8 years.

I met her in the hospital today along with some journalists. To meet her one has to get permission from the offices of Chief Minister (CM), Principal Secretary, Joint Secretary, Director General of Police (DGP) and jail authorities. Sharmila's brother Singhjit arranged the permission for me.

Since the last time I met her in September 2007, she has become paler - because of lack of nutrition and sunlight. But in spite of being disappointed that Sonia Gandhi has not responded to her letter that she gave us last time and which National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) activist Faisal Khan had handed over to Ahmed Patel, she is determined to continue her struggle. She has tremendous faith in God and is certain that she will succeed one day.

I've extended NAPM's total support to the struggle of women of Manipur. Earlier Bela Bhatia had also come here to express solidarity with the women's movement in the early days of the ongoing fast. I think more activists from other states of India must come out to Imphal to support this extraordinary struggle.

Contact's in Imphal: Irom Singhjit Singh (brother of Irom Sharmila): 9862696184, Shanti devi (one of the women coordinators of meira paibee): 9856192286

Dr Sandeep Pandey, Imphal
29 December 2008

(The author is a Ramon Magsaysay Awardee 2008 and a senior social activist in India. He is the national convener of National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) and can be contacted at: ashaashram@yahoo.com) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Read a related CNS article online at: September 2007: Anti-AFSPA fast ends on a positive note