The North American Manipur Association (NAMA) hosted a one day fast on 5th November 2011 in conjunction with the All India Worldwide fast organised by Save Democracy, Repeal AFSPA group. NAMA orgranised this event so that members can express solidarity to Irom Sharmila Chanu's fight against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which completed 11 years on the same day.
The time of the fast was set from 8 AM to 5 PM in the time zone where the NAMA member resides. Since NAMA members are spread across various states, it was not possible to gather at one location. A conference bridge was opened to create a forum during the fast.
Several NAMA members and families across North America joined the fast event. The fast kicked off with NAMA members joining the conference bridge opened at 8:30 AM EST hosted by the NAMA Executive team. Towards the end of the fast, the conference bridge was reopened and the participants shared their thoughts.
NAMA President Rajeshwar Laishram gave a speech regarding the background of the campaign and thanked the participants for their support. He highlighted that NAMA will organize various AFSPA campaigns in North America in the next few months. This he believes will create additional awareness to the international community.
Another Executive Member spoke about the history of AFSPA, Sharmila's struggle and a reminder of this draconian Act in which the Army has the powers to arrest, shoot and kill at mere suspicion. NAMA members on the call pointed out several instances of gross human rights violation that has occurred in Manipur due to this Act.
Irom Sharmila Chanu also known as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ continues to fast demanding the Repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958. She took the stand to go on fast unto death after the Malom (Imphal West) incident on 2nd November 2000 where 10 villagers were killed by the Assam Rifles.
However, the Manipur State government has arrested her in charges of attempted suicide and has kept her confined inside a small room in a government hospital. She was awarded the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. She was also conferred Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize in 2010 by Indian Institute of Planning & Management (IIPM), New Delhi. NAMA salutes the undaunting spirit of Sharmila and her dedication for the people for Manipur.
A compilation of messages received from NAMA members supporting the campaign before and after the fast:
“My family will participate in the fasting campaign against the Indian AFSPA in solidarity with the 11 years hunger strike by Irom Sharmila Chanu. May God bless her and bring an end to AFSPA. Too much killing and too much human tragedy and suffering. Enough is enough!!”
“Pleasure to see the unity among NAMA members through this valuable cause. A few hours to go to complete our support & solidarity through this event. Let us keep up the momentum and rekindle our spirits of love and unity. Let us join hands to abolish injustice and inhumanity from the surface of Manipur and the world. God bless Irom Sharmila Chanu. God bless Manipur. God bless NAMA.”
“The fast made me connected with Eche Sharmila and her struggle. I feel proud to attend the fast.”
“Highly appreciate NAMA's efforts in organising this campaign and I will be fasting.”
“Truly support the campaign and will be joining the fast.”
“I will join the fast. I am thrilled to do something to support this cause. Thank you for making us all aware of this opportunity.”
NAMA Executive team would like to thank all the members who attended the event and the leaders of Save Democracy, Repeal AFSPA group for this thoughtful initiative.