Fragrance of Peace

When life comes to its end
You, please transport
My lifeless body
Place it on the soil of Father Koubru
To reduce my dead body
To cinders amidst the flames
Chopping it with axe and spade
Fills my mind with revulsion
The outer cover is sure to dry out
Let it rot under the ground
Let it be of some use to future generations
Let it transform into ore in the mine
I'll spread the fragrance of peace
From Kanglei, my birthplace
In the ages to come
It will spread all over the world.
-Irom Sharmila.

Who is Irom Sharmila? It is quite essential that we know the name of this woman…
Introduced in 1958 the AFSPA grants the Indian military special powers throughout North-East India to:

  • Arrest citizens and enter their property without warrant;
  • Shoot and kill anyone on mere ‘suspicion’;
  • Enjoy immunity against legal action.
Under the cover of the Act the Indian armed forces have indulged in killing, torture, enforced disappearances and rape, bringing great shame to India and much misery to the people of Manipur. According to the government appointed Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission ‘the Act has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.’ The United Nations Committee on Racial Discrimination has urged the Indian government to repeal the law.

On 2 November, 2000 Irom Sharmila Chanu, a Manipuri poet decided to go on a hunger strike after the Indian Army massacred ten civilians in Malom, Manipur. On 6 November 2000 she was arrested by the police and charged with attempt to commit suicide under section 307 of the Indian Penal Code. Her health deteriorated gradually and she did not accept even a single drop of water.

On 21 November 2000 a plastic tube was inserted into her nose and liquid nutrient was inserted into her body. She has been surviving on this liquid diet and in solitary confinement as a high security prisoner for the last nearly ten years. She is routinely released every year only to be re-arrested again. This ritual has been going on for a decade now.

In solidarity with her local civil society, particularly the women, have been on a relay hunger strike since December 10, 2008. On the occasion of her struggle entering the tenth year, they are poised to celebrate her resilience as a "Festival of Hope, Justice and Peace".

The legislation is sought to be justified by the Government of India, on
the plea that it is required to stop the North East states from seceding from the Indian Union. The Attorney General of India argued that the Indian Constitution, in Article 355, made it the duty of the Central Government to protect the states from internal disturbance, and that there is no duty under international law to allow secession. On 23 March 2009, UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navnetham Pillay asked India to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. She termed the law as "dated and colonial-era law that breach contemporary international human rights standards." The Act has been employed in the Indian administrated state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.

It was withdrawn by the Manipur government in some of the constituencies in August 2004 in spite of the Central government not favoring withdrawal of the act. In December 2006, responding to what he said were 'legitimate' grievances of the people of Manipur, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared that the Act would be amended to ensure it was 'humane' on the basis of the Jeevan Reddy Commission's report, which is believed to have recommended the Act's repeal.

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