By NAPM & NFF
12 May, 2011
A Call for Nationwide Protest
Perhaps you are aware that the hunger fast of Irom Sharmila Chanu has crossed 10 years, with a demand for repeal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958. She has been force fed through her nose by the Government, arrested with charges for attempt to commit suicide, criminalised as a high security prisoner, denying her access to family, friends, supporters and the media. It is a shame that in this land of Gandhi, a non-violent protester has been subjected to such humiliation for more than ten years. Globally, in the history of non-violent resistance, this struggle is unmatched in terms of its resilence and sustaining power.
The draconian act of AFSPA has been implemented in North eastern states of India since 1958 and in Jammu and Kashmir since 1991. It was on May 22, 1958, that the AFSPA was promulgated in the north east as an ordinance. This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. It gave extraordinary powers to members of the armed forces, to arrest without warrant and shoot to kill on the basis of suspicion; and no legal action can be taken up against the armed forces without prior sanction from the Centre. After a brief discussion, the Parliament endorsed the ordinance an Act on August 18, 1958, despite stiff resistance from various qurters who challenged it as a martial law. Needless to say, that with the pretension of controlling insurgence, this Act has only intensified the insurgency in the region and legitimised thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and “disappearances” of innocent people in the north east. The democratic movements in the north east have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act for decades. In solidarity, we, the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) and the National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) hereby call to all democratic forums, human rights groups and people’s movements to initiate various public protest actions from May 22 to August 18, demanding immediate repeal of AFSPA, in solidarity with Irom Sharmila.
AFSPA is not only opposed by the civil society groups but also by the Government’s own commissions and committees appointed to look into the matter. For example, the Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy in 2005, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Dr. Veerappan Moily in 2007 and several others have recommended its repeal. Internationally, the UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the U N High Commissioner for Human Rights and recently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders have consistently urged for its repeal. However, all these went to the deaf ears of the Government.
We hereby strongly condemn the use of our tax payers’ money for the militarisation of the civic spaces within the country. We recognise that if the struggle of Irom Sharmila fails, it will be a failure of the entire democratic movements in this country as well as a deep scar on Indian democracy for generations. Therefore, in the wake of the 54th year of imposition of AFSPA, we appeal to all human rights groups, social and political activist groups, people’s movements and NGOs to initiate the following public protest actions demanding the repeal of AFSPA in solidarity with Irom Sharmila, during May 22 to August 18, 2011:
1. Public protests, dharnas, relay hunger fasts in your area
2. Organise public meetings and seminars on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila demanding the repeal of AFSPA
3. Organise performances of the one woman play `Le mashale’ on Irom Sharmila by Ojas S.V.
4. Organise painting exhibitions on Irom Sharmila. The exhibition can be downloaded from:
5. Organise film screening programmes on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila. Copies of the video films are available from: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 011-26517814
6. Initiate public signature campaigns and send them to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Law Minster, the Home Minister and the National Human Rights Commission
7. Initiate statements by well known writers, intellectuals, film personalities, theatre people, musicians and other artists
8. Any other form of action that you may find appropriate to strengthen the democracy of this country
We request you to publicise your action through the internet and mass media and send the reports of your actions to: email@example.com
National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) & National Fish workers’ Federation (NFF)