Long Live Irom Sharmila!Repeal AFSPA; Give Manipuri People The Right To Self-determination



As proletarian women from all over the world get ready to celebrate the centenary of the International Workmgwomcn’s Day next year, Irom Sharmila Chanu, the epitome of resilience and indomitable courage, is on the verge of achieving another landmark in her prolonged struggle against the mighty and ruthless Indian state. On November 2, 2010, Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri poet and human rights activist, will complete 10 years of hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). An extraordinary struggle of an extraordinary woman! Withstanding the test of time, Sharmila’s struggle exemplifies the triumph of democratic aspiration over the unbridled power of that stooge of world imperialism – the Indian State. Ten years since it began in 2000. Irom Sharmila Chanu’s fast is unparalleled in the history of political protest.
Sharmila began her protest after 10 civilians were gunned down by the Armed Forces on November 1, 2000. That day, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, 10 innocent people who were waiting for their buses at a bus stop were gunned down by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating m the state. The dead included a 62-year-old woman, Leisangbam Ibotomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner! The incident, which came to be known as the ‘Malom Massacre’, affirmed the continuation of the endless killings by the Indian armed forces in Manipur and inspired Sharmila, then only 28, to act. Thus she launched her historic hunger strike against the AFSPA in particular and the widespread repression unleashed against the people of Manipur by the Indian state in general.

The single most determined objective of Sharmila’s protest then was the repeal of the AFSPA from the state of Manipur. However, over the last nine years, she has extended the scope of her demand to all regions of India’s north east where AFSPA has been imposed. The AFSPA provides special powers to arrest, detain and even kill civilians on suspicion. The power to search and destroy properties on mere suspicion is granted to the Armed Forces of the Union in the ‘disturbed areas’ of the North East (and subsequently m Kashmir). Wherever the AFSPA is m operation, enforced ‘disappearances’, extra-judicial killings, torture, rape, arbitrary detention and unspeakable atrocities against women have been routinely reported. In 1958 when the Union Home Minster introduced the law in Parliament, he assured that the Act would be in operation for only 6 months. But it has dragged on for more than 52 years now!

The Indian state has persisted in its attempts to forcibly break Sharmila’s hunger strike. She has been detained and arrested times without number. The Manipuri people and their struggle for self-determination have been subjected to brutal repression. Not only have they been denied the right to craft their own destiny, they have also been denied the basic fundamental rights of life and liberty enshrined in the Indian Constitution. The aggressive and expansionist Indian state acquired Manipur m 1949 under extremely disputed circumstances. This undemocratic and anti-people acquisition has remained the core reason of the dissatisfaction and unrest by the people of Manipur against the Indian slate. Since then, Manipur has been witness to relentless struggles for sell-determination, which have been met by violent military response by the Indian government.
The people of Manipur have done — and continue to do — their utmost to register their protest against AFSPA. There have been naked protests by mothers, self-immolation by students, mass demonstrations, petitions to the Supreme Court, complaints to the United Nations, etc. However, the Indian state has remained unrepentant. Notwithstanding the fact that the ills of the AFSPA stand totally exposed today, it is still the law of the land. On the other hand, Sharmila who has become the icon of the protest against this draconian law is treated as a petty criminal, charged for attempting to commit suicide and the Government of India continues her detention in isolation as a high security prisoner for a decade.

Sharmila’s struggle lies not only m defending the most basic and fundamental human rights or her people, but also in questioning the very foundations of the ‘world’s biggest democracy’, which resorts to fascistic repression whenever and wherever people stand up for their rights. She is the symbol of protest against the ruling class, a beacon or hope for all people – from Dantewada to Kashmir, from Kalmganagar to Vidarbha — valiantly confronting the might of the Indian state. It is significant that although ninny national and international civil rights organizations, NGOs and even the Indian Institute of Planning and Management have showered awards and accolades on Sharmila for her courage and ‘non-violent’ protest, none of these has spoken in defence of the Manipuri people’s right to self-determination. Thus, these elite persons and organizations, while supposedly glorifying Sharmila, actually stand opposed to the very fountainhead of her struggle. It is only by building up a struggle in solidarity with the right to self-determination of peoples and nationalities across the country can we pay genuine tribute to Sharmila. It is only by unleashing a struggle to overthrow the rule of the present ruling classes and instituting a real people’s democracy in its stead can we uphold the right of the Manipuri people to self-determination.

Thus, on the 10th anniversary of Sharmila’s political fast, AIRWO pledges its solidarity with the people of Manipur and upholds their struggle against the Indian state. AIRWO calls upon all revolutionary and democratic-minded women to support Sharmila’s demands and put pressure on the Indian state to repeal the AFSPA, withdraw the military from Manipur, other north-eastern states and Jammu & Kashmir, and recognize their right to self-determination. Only then can we hope to set up an effective resistance to the Indian state’s atrocities against women and pave the way for true women’; emancipation.
Communist Party of India (MArxixt-Leninist) Manipur State Committee also pledge solidarity to Irom Sharmila on her 10 years fasting. We appealed to India Government to repealed AFSPA, save Sharmila. Otherwise we will not consider India a democratic country. We will consider India a lawless land.

Yours faithfully,
Secretary, CPI(M-I,) Central Committee.

S. Shyamsunder,
Secy. CPI (M-L) State Committee Manipur.


  1. First since I communicate directly with Sharmila to answer the question of Raj Kumar no she does not wish to end her satyagraha until or unless AF(SP)A is repealed. If you want to know what she thinks try writing to her directly. Irom Sharmila Chanu, Security Ward, JNIMS, Porompat, Imphal East 795001. She can end the fast any day she chooses. She chooses to wait for AF(SP)A to be repealed.


    And for Berlin (forgive me if I use the wrong name no offence is meant) the above is a recent podcast of a one minute speech on the food and essential supplies scarcity in Manipur compared to the deprivations of Gaza. It’s from the European Parliament given by the head of the EU/India delegation of MEPs to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs (The EU Foreign Secretary). It ends with another call for the repeal of AF(SP)A. This is only a start. But the world will care. Once AF(SP)A is repealed that too is only the first step. As Irom Sharmila will never leave Manipur then she will do all that she can to alleviate her motherland’s problems. With respect once she has completed this satyagraha then we can find other methods. I am not stopping anyone else from a Gandhian style non-violent non-cooperation but there are other ways.

    Obviously if we come in and invest in your beloved Kangleipak and having been told already that I am a drug crazed monkey who is not welcome in your country it’s never been my first choice. Also your government maintains a policy of apartheid though I think that’s more to protect foreigners from Manipuris I am happy to waive my rights. My preference for facing down extortionists is to invite them to take tea, perhaps to meditate. I am not coming to Manipur to hand over money to some goon just because he has a gun and drug habit. I am sure it may be frightening that is why it was never my first choice. I don’t think it will be easy, but it is doable. The British could not rule India without the consent of Indians they never had enough troops. Even the nicer Manipuris continually make racist abusive and ignorant statements about foreigners while complaining also that Mayangs are very racist and discriminatory against the Manipuri. I guess therefore that Manipuris are people just like everyone else.

    I have explained to my fiancee that her country is an insane snake pit where irrational paranoia holds sway, and that’s just with the security forces who are described by southerners as very disciplined. What she is hoping for and you could accuse her of simplicity and naivety is that if you reduce the violence and bring in a culture of accountability and justice, seek ye first the kindom of God then all these other things will be added.

    With all due respect no one uses that phrase unless he intends to be overtly disrespectful


    Hatred, resentment, vindictiveness sour us on our life, but love, forgiveness and mercy put the sweetness back in. This is what our Iron Lady is fighting for us. She is trying to bring back peace and tranquillity to our state. The meaning to protest is good and with a noble cause. But is anyone aware of the outcome? Is just peace foundation aware of the outcome? What are the credentials of 90% of the NGO’s? They all have their own agendas. These NGO’s are into business and a very sensible and sensitive issue is enlightened at the cost of some one’s life who would have really tried to end it. Probably she wants to end. Circumstances are created by many NGO’s and other organisations that she is not able to end the long fast and lead a normal life. She is tough, gr8 and endured lady. What is the out come of this long non-ending fast is an undaunted, unreliable question? With no disrespect to her, I feel that the good great Irom Sharmila is being used by others.


    Other day I was seeing the importance of removal of AFSPA from Manipur and also from some other states. Many other issues were raised, many organisations from all over the country coming and felicitating our iron lady and grabbing media attention in our Kangleipak. These are publicity stunts in our state to gain an access. Now since the insurgency is on the verge of reducing due to public awareness or kind of stuff, problems of extortion and scarcity of fuel has increased doubly. I would like to ask these organisations and NGO’s that, is there anyone who can go on an hunger strike for the cause to eradicate the scarcity of fuel and extortion in our great Kangleipak? Isn’t that troubling us more than AFSPA?


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