Nationwide Save Sharmila tour ends

Imphal: After soliciting support from the people of 11 states in their drive against the `draconian` Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), the `Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign` today completed its nation-wide tour as it reached Imphal valley. Flagged off by Medha Patkar and Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey on October 16 from Srinagar, the 4,500 km long `Jan Karvan` is led by 21 members of the National Alliance for People`s Movement (NAPM) and backed by a number of civil society groups from across the country.

The 4,500 km tour covered cities like Jammu, Ludhiana, New Delhi, Kanpur, Lucknow, Varanasi, Ranchi, Patna, Kolkata and Guwahati, with the final destination being Imphal.

"We were successful in spreading the universal message of love and peace. We made people aware against the unconstitutional and inhumane AFSPA which has killed many innocents. Only by repealing the Act, Irom Sharmila can get justice," said a spokesman of the campaign.

During their march, public meetings, distribution of pamphlets, candle light vigils, street plays and school and college meetings were held in association with local human rights organisations. On December 10, which is celebrated as International Human Rights Day, volunteers of the solidarity campaign will fast at New Delhi`s Rajghat.

Signatures collected from different parts of the country would be put on display and a delegation will meet President Pratibha Patil to seek her intervention in stopping alleged army atrocities under the AFSPA.

The `Save Sharmila` campaign, which received fresh attention ever since Anna Hazare sat on a fast twice earlier this year, has made many social activists like Medha Patkar, Aruna Roy, Binayak Sen, writer Arundhati Roy and a host of intellectuals, litterateurs, artistes come out in her support.

By fasting for the last 11 years, `Iron Lady` Irom Sharmila`s non-violent resistance has become a nucleus for collective protest against the AFSPA. Sharmila, who is now forcibly nose-fed at a government hospital in Imphal, began her fast in November 2000 after Assam Rifles personnel killed ten innocent civilians at Malom area near Imphal airport in an alleged encounter with the militants.