GUWAHATI: Balwant Singh Yadav, a retired soldier from Himachal Pradesh, who had served in the Northeast during the 1962 Chinese aggression, wants the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) to be scrapped and Irom Sharmila freed.
“Yeh (AFSPA) kanun ka koi jarurat nahin. Agar politicians thik se nagarik ka samasya samadhan karte hain, main to kahta hun ki army ka bhi jarurat nehin hoga. Aaj Sharmila AFSPA ke birudh jo lambi ladai kar rahe hain, hum saab unke saath hain,” said Yadav, who is one of the participants in the nationwide Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC).
Yadav, who is the coordinator of the Gandhi Global Family in Shimla, even went to the extent of comparing Sharmila with Rani Laxmi Bai for her 11-year fast against the AFSPA. He said that SSSC has been able to waken the country to the “grit and determination” of Sharmila.
Like Yadav, many social activists from different states and organizations joined the SSSC which started in Srinagar this month. The SSSC, an umbrella of over 70 organizations, including the National Alliance of People’s Movement, Khudai Khidmatgar, Asha Parivar, Gandhi Global Family and Jagriti Mahila Samiti, has already covered 10 states. On Wednesday, the SSSC left for Imphal.
“We are going to Imphal to meet Sharmila. J&K and Manipur are the two states affected by AFSPA. The involvement of people in the campaign from states where there is no AFSPA tells very clearly that we are united for Sharmila’s cause,” said Faisal Khan of SSSC.
Without mentioning any name, Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption movement also came in for criticism by SSSC members. “I do not want to take any names, but want to say that those who for the past few months have been claiming their movement is satyagrah should learn from Sharmila. She never used any harsh words against anyone and continued tenaciously with her fast. We are going to meet Sharmila to learn from her and get inspired by her satyagrah,” said Khan.
Bihar convenor of Bandi Adhikar Andolan, Santosh Upadhay, said Sharlima has been deprived of the basic rights of a prisoner since she is not allowed any visitors. “Many people who wanted to meet Sharmila were denied permission. This is a clear violation of a prisoner’s right to talk and meet people. This is not democracy,” said Upadhay.