|Irom Sharmila addresses the media on International Women’s Day in Imphal on Sunday. Picture by Eastern Projections|
Imphal, March 8: Manipur human rights crusader Irom Sharmila called upon women on International Women’s Day to unite and make the state a peaceful and better place.
An Imphal court yesterday released her from jail at the end of her yearlong term on charges of attempted suicide.
Sharmila began her indefinite hunger strike in November 2000, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. She was freed from jail every year only to be sent back after her repeated refusal to end her fast.
After walking out of the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital at Porompat in Imphal East district at 5.15pm, she continued her hunger strike along with her supporters under a tent near the hospital.
Sharmila today attended an International Women’s Day function organised by Sharmila Kanba Lup, a women’s support group, at Majorkhul community hall in the city. After the function she came back to Porompat to continue her struggle.
A police team followed her movements and may take her into custody again, as she continued the fast.
“Let us mark this day as the day when the women of Manipur began their struggle for making Manipur a better place for living,” Sharmila told the gathering at the function. She urged them to fight against corruption, injustice and violence. Her 10-minute speech depicted her agony and suffering at the chaos and violence in the state.
“The government has been suppressing the voice of the people, while more and more male members of Manipuri society are being killed on a daily basis. Unless something is done, there may come a day when our society is without males,” Sharmila said. “We all will die one day. Why should we fear death for the cause of justice?”
The International Women’s Day programmes were marked with a renewed call to lift the Armed Force (Special Powers) Act and to find a peaceful solution to the armed conflict in the state.
The Ibobi Singh government came under heavy flak for resorting to violence instead of trying to find a peaceful solution to the issue of insurgency.
The All Manipur Women Voluntary Association also held a function at Imphal’s Gandhi Memorial auditorium, on the theme Let’s Carry the Struggle Forward.
“Sharmila wants peace to return to Manipur. So let us work for a solution to the ongoing armed conflict. Let peace return to the state and Sharmila end her fast by ushering in complete peace,” said Chongtham Rita, the head of the English department of Modern College.
Kunjarani Devi, the vice-president of the association, called for unity among the women to make Manipur a place where there was no oppression or inequality.
The speakers, including teachers, lawyers and women activists, called for more political awareness among women so that they could take part in decision making.
Altogether 60 women journalists from across the country today expressed solidarity with Sharmila’s struggle in a statement.
The scribes have gathered here since March 5 for the 7th annual conference of the Network of Women in Media, India.
“We feel privileged to have been present when Sharmila was released from jail,” the network said in a statement today.
The statement said the women scribes were deeply concerned about the long-standing recourse to the act in a situation that required serious and sustained political, economic and social initiatives in partnership with local communities.