Peace prize for Sharmila - Rights crusader to use cash for deliverance of justice

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  • Published 12.09.10

Imphal, Sept. 11: A Delhi-based business school today conferred Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize on rights crusader Irom Sharmila, now in judicial custody, in recognition of her courage in peaceful struggle for peace and justice.

The award, carrying a gold medal, a citation and a sum of Rs 51 lakh, was handed over by a three-member delegation from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM) to Sharmila, who has been on fast for almost a decade, in her room at the security ward of the government-run Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital at Porompat in Imphal East today.

“I do not want any award. My fight is not for awards or money. My struggle is for peace and justice. I will not be happy until my goal is achieved,” Sharmila said.

Sharmila is the first person to receive the award that was instituted two years ago by the IIPM.

She remained seated quietly on her bed when the team entered and informed her about the award.

As tears rolled down her cheeks, she said: “I want the cash award to be used in delivering justice and punishing the criminals. I want the creation of an international fund by an international body for dispensing justice and I want to donate the cash award to such a fund.”

Sharmila began her fast-unto-death, demanding scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, from November 2, 2000, after troops of the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians at Malom in Imphal West in retaliation to a militant attack on an Assam Rifles patrol the same day. Since then, she has been continuing the fast and survives on forced nasal feeding in judicial custody.

The award comes as Just Peace Foundation, Imphal, is holding campaigns to mark the countdown of a decade of Sharmila’s hunger strike. The countdown that began on July 25 will culminate with a cultural programme, Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace, to be held here from November 2 to 6. The programme will begin with an exhibition of paintings on Sharmila. About 12 local artists are now painting Sharmila’s pictures on the theme, Spirit of Sharmila.

The founder director of the IIPM, M.K. Chaudhuri, told reporters that the institute had selected Sharmila for the award because of her courage and determination to continue such a long struggle in a peaceful manner.

“Sharmila is a unique Indian woman. Our institute will continue to extend moral support to her cause,” Chaudhuri, who heads the delegation, said.

Sharmila’s elder brother Irom Singhajit, who was also present on the occasion, said awards for Sharmila did not bring happiness to their family. “We want all citizens of India join the campaign against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and ensure that it is scrapped,” Singhajit, who is the managing trustee of Just Peace Foundation, said.