Press Release on Nationwide Opposition to Government Refusal to a Peaceful Fast in Support of Irom Sharmila

December 15, 2011

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.

With its signature campaign which was launched on 2nd October, the Campaign has tried to spread the movement and awareness in public and gathered support in the form of signatures. On 10th December which is also the International Human Rights Day, the signature campaign was to culminate with a day-long solidarity hunger strike by social activists, majorly the women activists and students and submission of the signatures (in the form of memorandum) to the President of India.

However, the Delhi Police denied permission for the fast on flimsy grounds of “law and order”. This is unacceptable in a democratic state. It is clear that the Government fears the growing public support for Irom Sharmila and her cause and is now intent on suppressing our voices.

Therefore, the Campaign decided to protest against this unconstitutional and authoritative attitude of the Government. It called for a nation-wide opposition to Government’s refusal to the peaceful fast. People across the country were asked to observe a day-long fast.

In Delhi, a prayer meeting was organized at Rajghat, at 9 AM, joined by domestic workers, rights and peace activists, students, teachers, lawyers and many other eminent academicians. This was followed by a press conference at 2 PM, at the Press Club Lawns. At the press conference, many known social activists raised their concerns to save our right to freedom of speech, rights violations and struggle of Irom Sharmila and many others demanding an end to heavy militarisation, withdrawal of AFSPA and restoration of peace and freedom in North East and Jammu and Kashmir.

Medha Patkar, Convener, NAPM remarked, “this refusal reveals the fear of the Government. Their intolerance for non-violent protests and dialogue and engagement with people’s movements is leading to more violent conflict in the country today. If they fear law and order issues then it is their duty to maintain law and order but not by trampling citizens fundamental right of peaceful gathering and protest”.

Aruna Roy, NAC member and member, MKSS added, “I feel as society we have failed Sharmila in her struggle, to respond to her demand. Why has she been made to fast for 11 years now ? If the government is not responding to it then let others take it up.”

“The Government has allowed a pro-AFSPA gathering which includes people who are committed to violence, at Jantar Mantar on the same day but they have not allowed us. They have suppressed non-violent democratic voices” told Devika, Volunteer, SSSC.

Shaheen another volunteer with SSSC told “the government has suppressed our call for saving human rights on the human rights day. What else is there to say?”

The Campaign plans to strengthen its mass support with more events in the public spaces in coming days.

Members of the campaign expressed their concern on this issue and told that non violence should not be ignored. They demanded that Jeevan Reddy committee report, Moily report and recent kashmir interlocutors reports should be made public and their recommendations implemented after a nationwide public debate on the issue.

Campaign is demanding to start steps to resolve the issue of human rights violation through active dialogue between different concerned parties and work on a phase wise demilitarisation strategy. They will soon approach the Home Minister with their demand.

They demanded from the government to talk with Irom, to send all party representative committee including rights activists and to send members of NWC and NHRC to examine the cases of violations there and take action on those. They agreed that such draconian laws are making the country weak and there is no place for such laws in democracy.