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31 December, 2008

Women on indefinite relay fast in support of Irom Sharmila

IROM SHARMILA. Picture: Courtesy World Sikh News

Dr Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Imphal, writes:

Dear friends,

Women's organizations in Manipur, coordinated 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, December 10, 2008, 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 Jawaharlal 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'. 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 eight 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, Prinipal Secretary., Joint Secretary., Director General of Police and the 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. In spite of being disappointed that Sonia Gandhi has not responded to her letter that she gave us last time and which 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 the 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.

Contacts in Imphal: Irom Singhjit Singh (brother of Irom Sharmila): 9862696184
Shanti Devi (one of the coordinators of Meira Paibee): 9856192286

29th December, 2008
Dr Sandeep Pandey can be contacted at:

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