A prayer meeting was held at Rajghat at 9 a.m. on Saturday, International Human Rights Day, under the auspices of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC).
The prayer meeting was organized as Delhi police refused permission for a fast in solidarity with Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast in Manipur for more than 11 years demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Apart from eminent academicians, domestic workers, rights and peace activists, students, teachers, lawyers and others attended it.
This was followed by a press conference at the Press Club lawns. Many known social activists were present and they voiced their concerns with regard to freedom of speech and human rights in the context of the heroic struggles of Irom Sharmila and many others.
They demanded an end to heavy militarization, withdrawal of the AFSPA and restoration of peace and freedom in the North-East and in Jammu and Kashmir.
Medha Patkar, Convener, National Alliance of People’s Movements, said, “This refusal (to lift AFSPA) reveals the fear of the Government. Their intolerance towards non-violent protests and dialogue and reluctance to engage with people's movements is leading to more violent conflicts in the country today. If they fear law and order issues it is their duty to maintain law and order and not trample upon the citizens’ fundamental right of peaceful gathering and protest”.
Aruna Roy, member, National Advisory Council, added, “I feel as society we have failed Sharmila in her struggle. Why has she been made to fast for 11 years? If the government is not responding to it then let others take it up.”
SSSC members who spoke demanded that the Jeevan Reddy Committee report, the Moily report and the Kashmir interlocutors' report should all be made public and their recommendations implemented after a nationwide public debate.
They said they would soon approach the Union Home Ministry with a demand that the government resolve the issue of human rights violations through active dialogue with the concerned parties. They wanted the ministry to evolve a phased demilitarization strategy.
They suggested that the government must talk with Irom Sharmila. They also wanted a representative committee to examine the cases of rights violations in Manipur and other places and take action. They pointed out that draconian laws were making the country weak and there was no place for such laws in a democracy.
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