Activists say government and politicians have wilfully ignored her for 11 years

Demanding that the government engage in a dialogue with Irom Sharmila who has been on a hunger strike since 11 years demanding repealing of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act), many civil rights groups, activists and student groups on Friday evening held a protest march at the Marine Drive here as a part of the ‘Irom Sharmila Solidarity Campaign'.

“She [Irom Sharmila] is the symbol of non-violence. You [the government] want to reduce her to a non-entity by not letting people meet her. No one meets her. Those who want are not allowed to. She has grown so frail now, she weighs only 35 kg,” Mukta Srivastava of the National Alliance of People's Movement said.

“This is the beginning of the 12th year of her hunger strike. This is probably the longest continuous hunger strike. It is a shame on our democracy,” Anand Patwardhan, noted documentary-maker, said.

“If we are to be a democratic country, we have to respect the rights of our people. But if you think they aren't our people, then that is a different issue,” he said.

“The government and the politicians have wilfully ignored her for the past 11 years. If Anna sits on a fast for a few days, a red carpet is rolled out for him. But the government has ignored her. It is only the elections that matter to them. We have to make this movement popular enough to make the government take it seriously,” Vasant Shirali, another participant in the campaign and the general secretary of Maharashtra region of the Socialist Party, said.

“We have a few demands. They are that: the government should talk to her; an all-party delegation should meet her; the NHRC [National Human Rights Commission] should investigate AFSPA-related atrocities; the government should repeal AFSPA,” Guddi S.L. of Yuva Biradari said.

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