Tag Archives: Irom Sharmila

From revered icon to unruly subject – Irom Sharmila and the politics of gender: Panchali Ray

Guest Post by PANCHALI RAY

In the month of August, 2016, Irom Sharmila Chanu, also known as the ‘Iron Lady’ and ‘Mengoubi’ (the fair one) announced that she would break her 16 year long hunger fast, which she commenced  as a protest against the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act) by the Indian state on the tiny hilly state of Manipur. While some cheered, others were curious, and many shocked and angry at what they perceived as her betrayal of the Manipuri cause. The backlash from her community was quick and ferocious, and newspaper headlines carried titillating stories of how she was rejected by her ‘own’.[1]

While much has been written on Sharmila’s hunger strike, her breaking of the fast, and entry into electoral politics, there has not been an equal amount of discussion on the politics of gender. For instance, the fact that Sharmila’s location in the North-Eastern part of the country has been central to her marginalization and non-acknowledgement[2], or that the mainstream media’s highlighting of her predicament, post-hunger strike, reinforced stereotypes of Manipur as the ‘wild’ and ‘savage’ North East[3] has received considerable attention.

Continue reading From revered icon to unruly subject – Irom Sharmila and the politics of gender: Panchali Ray

Angela Davis appeals to President to repeal AFSPA


At an exclusive meet-the-press in Mumbai, American black feminist activist and human rights defender, Angela Davis joined feminists in India spearheading a global women’s campaign appealing to the President of India to use his Constitutional powers and repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In doing so, she extends her solidarity to the struggles of women in India against the impunity granted to security forces under the AFSPA and the consequent widespread violation of rights in all areas where this law has been in force. In particular, Ms Davis salutes the historic struggle of Irom Chanu Sharmila whose 16 year long fast against the AFSPA helped foreground the issue both nationally, and internationally, saying “I am utterly inspired by Irom Sharmila’s strength and perseverance.”

There has been a global campaign of feminists seeking an end to AFSPA.

The full list of signatories can be seen here.

Women Of The World Stand With Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA Now!

Statement from Stand With Irom Sharmila campaign


Sand Sculpture at Cuttack, Orissa by artist Himanshu Shekhar Parida, in solidarity with Irom Sharmila’s struggle for repeal of AFSPA,  to mark 15 years of completion of  her hunger protest in 2015. (Image courtesy E-Pao)

“My struggle will continue until AFSPA is struck down” said Irom Sharmila Chanu, the poet and activist from Manipur whose 16-year long hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has made her a global symbol of non-violent resistance. Sharmila was speaking at a press conference organised on October 1, 2016 by the “Stand With Irom Sharmila: Repeal AFSPA” Campaign, a global campaign endorsed by nearly 1000 women – from pioneers of global women’s movements to grassroot activists who have dedicated their lives to the struggle for women’s rights and freedoms.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a colonial law first promulgated by the British rulers of India in 1942 to try and quell the freedom struggle. It has been continuously operative in several north-eastern states, including Sharmila’s home state of Manipur since 1958. It was also imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Under this law, armed forces and other security forces in “disturbed areas” have the license to shoot to kill anyone on suspicion; make arrests without warrants; enter and search any home or establishment; detain and question anyone. Armed forces personnel and security forces have complete immunity for actions taken under this law, and their prosecution requires prior sanction of the government, under Section 6 of the AFSPA. RTI information has disclosed that Sanction for prosecution of armed forces even for egregious human rights violation has never been granted. Nor is the government’s decision on declaring an area “disturbed” subject to judicial review.
Continue reading Women Of The World Stand With Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA Now!

एक विद्रोहिणी का अकेलापन

इरोम हम जैसा होना चाहती है ?
Image result for irom sharmila
(Photo Courtesy : Times of India)
कुछ कुछ तस्वीरें ताउम्र आप के मनमस्तिष्क पर अंकित हो जाती हैं।
चंद रोज पहले टीवी के पर्दे पर नज़र आयी और बाद में प्रिन्ट मीडिया में भी छायी उस तस्वीर के बारे में यह बात दावे के साथ कही जा सकती है। इस फोटोग्राफ में इरोम शर्मिला – जो आज़ाद भारत के सबसे खतरनाक दमनकारी कानून सशस्त्र बल विशेष अधिकार अधिनियम (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) के खिलाफ संघर्ष की एक प्रतीक बनी रही हैं – अपना सोलह साल से चल रहा अनशन तोड़ती दिख रही हैं। उन्हें एक चम्मच में शहद आफर किया जाता है और वह बेहद भावुक हो जाती हैं, महज एक बंूद लेकर उसे लौटा देती हैं।
ईमानदारी की बात है कि इस तस्वीर को कई कोणों से पढ़ा जा सकता है – एक कोण हो सकता है कि एक किस्म का हताशाबोध कि दुनिया के पैमाने पर ऐतिहासिक कही जा रही इतनी लम्बी भूख हड़ताल के बावजूद इस खतरनाक कानून को टस से मस नहीं किया जा सका, एक अन्य कोण हो सकता है इस एहसास का कि यह सरकार इस कदर संवेदनाशून्य हो चुकी है कि उससे लड़ने के लिए एक नयी किस्म की रणनीति की जरूरत है – बेकार में जान देने के बजाय, अपनी उर्जा को नए सिरेसे एक नए किस्म के संघर्ष मंे लगाने का – तीसरा कोण यह भी हो सकता है कि  महामानव या महामानवी घोषित किए गए किसी व्यक्ति का उस आरोपित प्रतिमा से तौबा करते हुए यह बताने का कि वह भी एक साधारण मानवी है, जिसके अन्दर बाकी लोगों जैसा जीवन जीने की हसरत है।

Continue reading एक विद्रोहिणी का अकेलापन

In Solidarity With Irom Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA: Forum Against Oppression of Women



Let Us Work Together To Create New Strategies Of Struggle Against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

We wholeheartedly support the decision of Irom Sharmila to withdraw, her fast of nearly 16 years for the revocation of AFSPA, we salute Irom Sharmila for her undying spirit, heroic struggle and undeterred determination in struggle against AFSPA.
It is our responsibility to take the struggle further and also support Irom Sharmila in her continuing struggle against AFSPA.
The history of post-Independence India is also the history of subjugation of the citizens of the North-eastern region. There has been a systematic crushing by the Indian state of their aspirations, and a consistent betrayal of promises made. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enacted as long ago as 1958, in order to suppress the genuine protests of the region’s inhabitants.
What is essentially a political issue has been treated simplistically as a law and order problem. AFSPA gives unbridled powers to the army and airforce. (Mizoram is the only part of India where the air force has actually bombed its own people.) The original Act allowed state governments to declare an area to be ‘disturbed’ and to call in the army. A 1972 amendment further allowed the central government to override state governments in order to do the same in any area.
AFSPA gives army officers the power to arrest without warrant, to shoot and kill on mere suspicion, to destroy property, and many other such draconian powers. The armed forces are required to act “in aid of” civilian authorities, but that caveat exists only on paper. In reality the army has virtually taken over large areas for decades together now, becoming a force unto itself, answerable to none. No army personnel may be prosecuted without permission from the central government – a permission hardly ever granted. Even bodies like the National and State Human Rights Commissions have little jurisdiction when it comes to human rights violations in the context of AFSPA.
What might have served at best as a short-term measure has become a permanent feature in Manipur and most of the North East (except Tripura where AFSPA was withdrawn in May 2015) and some parts of Kashmir. Yet the AFSPA is in violation of various international instruments that India has ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Body of Principles for Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention, and the UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal and Summary Executions.  It is patently unconstitutional, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the Indian Supreme Court got carried away by security concerns and upheld the constitutional validity of the Act.
In Manipur there has been widespread unhappiness, with the continuing abuse of human rights by the armed forces under cover of AFSPA causing bitter grievances to surface. Protests against these abuses are a constant feature. In one unique protest in 2004, angered by the custodial rape, torture and killing of 32-year-old Manorama who was picked up from her home on “suspicion”, a number of women paraded naked in front of an army base in protest against the army’s atrocities against women. The other unique and non-violent protest has been that of Irom Sharmila, poet and activist from Manipur. In what has possibly been the longest fast-unto-death anywhere, she has spent more than fifteen years now refusing food and demanding the repeal of AFSPA. For these fifteen years she has lived under arrest and been kept alive through intravenous force-feeding by the authorities.

Continue reading In Solidarity With Irom Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA: Forum Against Oppression of Women

A Renegade’s People: Rupam Sindhu Kalita

This is a guest post by Rupam Sindhu Kalita

What unites anti-homophobia campaigners, defenders of the poor’s right to clean water, university student collectives, women rights’ groups and academics under a premature summer sun in New Delhi on the 30th of March earlier this year? It is the unacceptable means employed by the Indian state in response to armed rebellions in North east India and the threat to civilian life that it has precipitated. The contagion of a military approach to a largely political problem was promulgated as an ordinance in 1958 under the presidency of Dr Rajendra Prasad to help quell the Naga movement and was developed into the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Assam and Nagaland) later in the same year. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (from here on AFSPA) persists in violating human rights in Kashmir and North east India despite its incompatibility with national and international human rights declarations. Over the years this Act has been sanctified in the inner sanctum of India’s centralised quasi-military administration. The government has been extremely guarded in its approach to growing popular demands for annulling this Act. The civil leadership’s reluctance to temper with the ritualized provisions of this Act has raised the disquieting question of who runs the country.

On 30th March central Delhi woke up to a motley group of protestors unified by a concern for violation of human rights under AFSPA. [Photo credit: V Arun Kumar].
On 30th March central Delhi woke up to a motley group of protestors unified by a concern for violation of human rights under AFSPA. [Photo credit: V Arun Kumar].

Continue reading A Renegade’s People: Rupam Sindhu Kalita

Protesting the Indian Republic at Kangla Fort, Manipur


The Sangai Express (Imphal) reported that women from different corners of Manipur staged a demonstration on January 25, 2014 in front of the Western Kangla Gate to denounce Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s failure to keep his promise to replace Armed Forces Special Powers Act with a humane legislation.

Displaying placards and festoons inscribed ‘Remove AFSPA,’ ‘Save Sharmila,’ the demonstrators also raised slogans demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Pandemonium erupted at the site when police personnel tried to seize the festoons from the agitating women.

Later, RK Radhyasana Devi, one of the protestors speaking to media persons, highlighted that the Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, while handing over the historic Kangla Fort to the people on November 20, 2004, had assured the people of the State that AFSPA would be replaced with a more humane Act .

She pointed out that the promise Dr Manmohan Singh made a decade back has not been translated into action till now.

Strongly demanding that the AFSPA, 1958 should be repealed, Radhyasana further asserted that the movement of Meira Paibi organisations would go on until the Act is scrapped from the State.

In 2004, at the same historic Kangal Fort, Manipuri women had staged a militant nude protest to denounce AFSPA in the aftermath of the extra-judicial killing of Thangjam Manorama Devi by Assam Rifles troopers.

And meanwhile, Irom Sharmila, in the 14th year of her fast against AFSPA, continues to be held in isolation by the Indian state, a prisoner of conscience.


Nationwide opposition to the government’s refusal to a peaceful fast in support of Irom Sharmila: NAPM

Press release issued today by the NATIONAL ALLIANCE FOR PEOPLE’S MOVEMENTS

New Delhi, December 10 : For some months now, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) has been spreading the word about Irom Sharmila and her struggle across the nation and beyond.

Started only by few organizations, campaign has now received support over more than 80 organizations and movements and thousands of supporters. Campaign has reached in almost every state of India and even outside. Campaign has organized various programs including its famous Nationwide Signature Campaign, Sri Nagar- Imphal Save Sharmila Jan Karwan in October and Ahemdabad- Srinagar Jattha in November this year. Continue reading Nationwide opposition to the government’s refusal to a peaceful fast in support of Irom Sharmila: NAPM

Irom Sharmila is in love

…which in these dark times is so life-affirming:

I can spot a Khushwant Singh, a Khalil Gibran and a Chetan Bhagat in the pile of books. “Most of these books have been gifted to me by my lover,” she says. This is the first I’ve heard of a man in her life. I hesitate, but Sharmila is clearly keen to talk about him. A Britisher based in Kerala, he got to know about Sharmila after he read Burning Bright, a 2009 book on the Manipuri struggle written by Deepti Priya Mehrotra and published by Penguin. “He wrote me a letter after he read the book. We have been exchanging letters since then,” she says shyly. Continue reading Irom Sharmila is in love

‘constitutional’ Realities: Priya Thangarajah


The piece is unfinished, consciously so. The thought is unfinished and needs to be fleshed out and thus posting this, so that this important idea can be evolved collectively. It raises a range of questions and contributes to existing debates on constitutional law from a social change/human rights perspective. (consciously the words ‘constitution’ and ‘india’ are not capitalised. ) It contributes significantly to an understanding, not just of north east india but the realities of chattisgarh, jharkhand, bihar, kashmir to name a few. It helps us understand all the wars fought within the country – ‘constitutionally’ about which much is being said in the media and elsewhere by state and non-state actors.

The constitution, some argue, is an aspirational document. Baxi states that it is created to protect the rights of the impoverished. Created to protect the weaker sections of society and that’s how the Dworkinian trumping of rights works. Rights of the weaker parties always trumps that of the stronger. But whatever the aim of the constitution maybe, its sacrosanct. Sacred. Amendments can be made with great difficulty but the constitution per se cannot be done away with for a new one. Continue reading ‘constitutional’ Realities: Priya Thangarajah