Sunday October 16, 2011
Srinagar: A Srinagar to Imphal anti-Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) ‘yatra’ covering 4,500 km began here Sunday “to generate public opinion” for the withdrawal of the law from Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast.
Social activist Medha Patkar, Magsaysay awardee Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People’s Movement leader Faisal Khan, Irom Sharmila’s brother Irom Singhjhit, Parveena Ahangar of the Association of Disappeared Persons (APDP) and local independent legislator Engineer Abdul Rashid were among 25 people who joined the ‘yatra’.
The activists prayed at the historic Hazratbal shrine for peace and harmony.
They then went to the Press Enclave, where Patkar and the others addressed the activists before embarking on the ‘yatra’, which will pass through 10 states before concluding at Imphal’s Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital Oct 27.
Sharmila, a leading civil rights activist, has been on a hunger strike in hospital since November 2000 demanding the AFSPA’s repeal.
Patkar demanded the AFSPA’s withdrawal and said guns and violence don’t solve any problem.
“Dialogue is the only way to resolve complex issues like Kashmir. We will fight jointly to save humanity. Even the central interlocutors have demanded the withdrawal of the AFSPA. We will continue our fight till the Act is withdrawn,” she said.
Faisal Khan said: “It is for the first time that such a ‘yatra’ is being organised to protect democratic values. Our main objective is to generate public opinion about sufferings of people affected by the AFSPA.”
The activists shouting slogans “Down with AFSPA” later boarded the vehicles to begin their journey.
“More and more people will join us en route as we travel through the major cities,” Patkar said.