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Global cry to dissuade Manipuri girl on marathon fast

Imphal, Sept. 19: Over 100 human rights crusaders from across the globe have petitioned President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to persuade Irom Sharmila, the Manipuri girl who has become the mascot of the campaign against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, to end her nearly two-year-long hungerstrike.

Sharmila, who began her fast-unto-death on November 5, 2000, has been surviving on a forced diet of liquids fed through her nose. Her health continues to deteriorate, but her spirit remains unwavering.

The one incident that turned Sharmila into a crusader for rights was the killing of 10 civilians by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom village near Imphal airport on November 2, 2000.

Responding to an appeal by the Imphal-based Human Rights Alert, as many as 131 activists of global rights organisations lent their signatures to a memorandum seeking the President’s help in ending Sharmila’s fast.

The signatories include members of the Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission, Bangkok’s Asian Forum of Human Rights and Development, Kathmandu’s South Asia Forum for Human Rights, Trans-national Institute of the Netherlands, Minbyun of South Korea, FCLC of Australia and the London-based Institute of Race Relations.

The memorandum focuses on the circumstances leading to Sharmila’s hungerstrike, especially the Assam Rifles’ attempts to stop the administration from instituting an inquiry into the incident at Malom. The Assam Rifles had challenged the magisterial inquiry on the ground that the state government had no power to impose itself on a Central paramilitary force.

Expressing concern over the failure of three governments to resolve the issue, the memorandum demands immediate revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

The executive director of Human Rights Alert, Babloo Loitongbam, said the Asian Human Rights Commission would launch a website on Sharmila and her cause. Kangjam Maharabi, another member of the organisation, accused the state government of not taking care of the Manipuri girl. “We have information that some officials threatened Sharmila instead of counselling her.”

The organisations that have backed Sharmila over the past two years include the New Delhi-based People’s Union of Democratic Rights, the Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti of Assam, the North East Co-ordination Committee on Human Rights and the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights.

, the Civil Liberties and Human Rights Organisation, Imphal, the All-Manipur United Clubs’ Organisation, the All-Manipur Students’ Union and the United Committee, Manipur.

Highway blockade: The steering committee of the ruling Secular Progressive Front in Manipur has convened an all-party meeting on Saturday to discuss ways to end the crisis caused by the indefinite blockade of the National Highway 39 (Imphal-Dimapur road) by the United Committee, Manipur. The blockade is in protest against the high incidence of crime on the highway.

On Tuesday, nearly 100 women headed for Nagaland to submit a memorandum to chief minister S.C. Jamir were intercepted at Mao checkgate within Manipur. Police officials allowed only five representatives of the All-Manipur Women’s Council and two interpreters to proceed to the Nagaland capital.

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