Irom Sharmila seeks plebiscite on her campaign against AFSPA
Irom Sharmila, who hit the global headlines with her unique campaign of fast unto death since November 4, 2000, seeking repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, (AFSPA), is today distraught and lonely. There is no fan and her routine appearance in courts in Imphal and Delhi get two para coverage even in the local newspapers while other regional and national media blank it out. She laments that she is fighting a losing battle and the people, who should have given her unfettered support, have distanced themselves from her.
Most of her women supporters are conspicuous by their absence from the court premises when she is produced.
Sharmila was traumatised by the massacres of innocent bystanders by security personnel who settled scores with the overpowered innocent people. On November 2, 2000 one homemade bomb was detonated at Mallom near Imphal when some jeeps of Assam Rifles were passing by. Though nobody was injured the furious security force personnel returned to the spot and rounded up ten persons including a woman who were waiting for their buses or working in their homes. They were mowed down in plain sight.
It was the last straw for Sharmila. She launched her hunger strike demanding repeal of the AFSPA which gives carte blanche to the armed forces’ personnel to commit such horrendous excesses.
She was charged with attempting to commit suicide and the law empowers authority to detain her for one year at one go. On October 6, 2006 she managed to slip to Delhi to continue her fast at Jantar Mantar. She is facing trial at the Patiala House court.
On January 22 this year the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal west heard her contention that she is using fasting as a mode of protest and that she has no intention of committing suicide. She was released. However police arrested her on January 24 as she continued her fast.
She got the Rabindranath Tagore peace prize on September 12, 2010. It carries Rs 51 lakh in cash and a gold medal. She is also a recipient of Gwangju award which is the highest civilian honour of South Korea. Such awards poured in and eventually Sharmila said that she would refuse all awards since her campaign is not for such recognitions. She distributed all the prize money to different persons including the Rickshaw Pullers and Drivers Association.
A few years back she ventilated her frustration over the lack of public support. Since just a handful of reporters are all who are present in the court complex now she wants a plebiscite on her campaign to know whether people are against or for the AFSPA.