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Sharmila nominated for peace award

- Team from Odisha meets Manipur crusader

Imphal, April 30: The Bhubaneswar-based Maaghara Foundation Trust of Odisha has nominated Manipur’s human rights crusader Irom Sharmila for the foundation’s “Woman peacemaker award,” which carries a cash award of Rs 50,000.

Sharmila is among more than 50 women activists nominated. The award will be given on May 11, World Mothers’ Day. A two-member team of the foundation led by Rituparna Mohanty, managing trustee, met Sharmila in her room at the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here yesterday to inform her about the nomination. “We told Sharmila about the nomination and the award. It will be given on May 11, World Mothers’ Day, in Bhubaneswar,” Mohanty told reporters here today.

Maaghara Foundation, founded in 2004, is working for women, peace and justice.

The foundation is instituting the award for the first time and it will be an annual event from this year onwards.

“More than 50 names have been nominated from all over the country. A panel of jury will choose the recipient of the award from among the nominations,” Mohanty said.

Sharmila told the team that she was no longer accepting awards, maintaining that her fight was not for awards but for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Mohanty claimed that Sharmila told the team that if she were selected for the award, she would acknowledge the honour, but would not accept the cash award.

“If the jury selects Sharmila, we will keep the money in a fixed deposit. We will hand over the money after she ends her fast,” Mohanty said.

In October 2012, Sharmila turned down Kovilan Smaraka Activist India National Award, instituted in memory of Malayalam poet A.A. Ayyappan.

Sharmila’s brother Irom Sinhajit, who attended the function held in Calcutta, returned the award after receiving it asking the organisers “to keep it in their custody and present it to Irom Sharmila herself when she has achieved her goal”. She has been the recipient of several awards, including the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2007 and the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize in 2010.

“We support Sharmila’s cause. We will write to the President and Prime Minister to initiate dialogue process for building peace in Manipur and the Northeast,” Mohanty said.

She said the Centre should seriously start looking for an alternative to the deployment of the army for building peace in the Northeast.

“This is not only an issue of the Northeast, but also of the nation. We will mount pressure on MPs from Odisha to take up Sharmila’s issue in Parliament,” she said.

Mohanty, who is also a human rights lawyer, expressed her unhappiness that governments in India never used the non-violent means of Mahatma Gandhi to achieve peace or to resolve conflicts.