Imphal, Nov. 2: The people of Bishnupur town today showed solidarity with Irom Sharmila’s demand for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act by suspending business activities for a day.
A rally was also organised in the town along with a public meeting at a community hall three days ahead of the 12th anniversary of Sharmila’s hunger strike demanding scrapping of the army act to show solidarity with her unrelenting struggle and to pay tributes to Pebam Chittaranjan who immolated himself in the town in support of the demand.
Sharmila began her hunger strike on November 5, 2000, at Malom near Imphal airport where, on this day 12 years ago, Assam Rifles personnel gunned down 10 civilians waiting for a bus at a bus stand in retaliation to a militant attack.
Today was also the 12th anniversary of the Malom massacre.
Pebam Chittaranjan immolated himself on Independence Day in 2004 at Bishnupur after Assam Rifles troops shot dead Th. Manorama on July 11, 2004, in Imphal East after allegedly raping her.
People paid floral tributes at the Malom massacre memorial site and to Chittaranjan at the spot where he took the extreme step.
Apunba Nupi Lup, Bishnupur district, organised the rally and the public meeting.
The organisers were planning to hold the meeting inside the main market but police prevented them from gathering there. They then shifted the venue to a nearby community hall.
The town also observed a daylong strike. Though police personnel were deployed to prevent any outbreak of violence, the day passed off peacefully.
“We could not fast like Sharmila, but we want to show our solidarity and lend our voice to the cry for repeal of the army act. We held the rally and public meeting for this reason. We plan to organise further anti-army act programmes to put pressure on the government and to drum up more public support against the act,” Sumati Oinam, vice-president of the Apunba Nupi Lup, Bishnupur district, said.
Several speakers addressed the gathering at the meeting and vented their ire against the government and the army act for forcing the people of the state to lead a life of fear.
Manipur University economics department faculty member Chinglen Maisnam told the gathering that people needed change and repeal of the act was one of the changes.
Senior journalist Irengbam Arun said the people of Manipur were living in fear because misuse of the act by the armed forces had left many of their near and dear ones dead or maimed.
The Bishnupur district women’s organisation hailed Sharmila’s decision not to receive any more awards till her goal was achieved. Though her elder brother Singhajit had recently received an award conferred on her by a Kerala-based trust, he returned the award to the trust to honour Sharmila’s decision.