Medha Patkar, others call for revocation of AFSPA
Demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), activists of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) said on Sunday the fight to remove this black law from Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast would be taken to its logical end.
The campaign, in which 20 persons are participating, is aimed at expressing solidarity with Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast for the last 10 years demanding revocation of the Act. The campaign is headed by noted social activist Medha Patkar. The team started its march from Srinagar and will proceed to Imphal to bring the demand into focus.
Before flagging off the campaign, Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey said the motive was to carry forward the mission of Ms. Sharmila. “Our journey will start from Srinagar and culminate at Imphal. I believe the northeast and Kashmir have witnessed the worst form of injustice,” he said. Mr. Pandey said he was moved on seeing the plight of a father, Abdul Ahad Rah, whose two sons disappeared without a trace. “This is how things have been going on in Kashmir. Unabated arrests, rapes, tortures, killings, mass graves. This is all because of the AFSPA. People of the northeast and Kashmir would leave no stone unturned to see the end of AFSPA,” he said.
Expressing concern at the attack on senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan on the Supreme Court premises, Mr. Pandey said: “We would fight them also.”
He said the demands in Kashmir and the northeast were almost the same as far as political rights were concerned. However, in many northeast States, demands varied. “Some States are for autonomy and some want independence,” he said.
Lauding the courage of Ms. Sharmila for being on fast for the last 10-years, Medha Patkar said they would carry forward the mission of Ms. Sharmila. “When Anna's 12-day fast could move the entire nation, why can't Sharmila's 10-year fast help remove the AFSPA,” she said.
Later talking to reporters, Ms. Patkar said anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare had not disowned Mr. Bhushan's comments on Kashmir. “The facts have been distorted by the media. Anna has stated that the core group would look into the Mr. Bhushan's remarks. The attack on Mr. Bhushan was strongly condemned,” she said.
Mr. Patkar said Kashmir was a complex problem and needed a resolution by means of dialogue. “There has to be a dialogue. Solution can't be found through the gun. I believe dialogue is the way forward. There has to be a common minimum denominator.”
Ms. Sharmila's brother, Irom Singhjit said their family had taken a pledge to fight for the revocation of the AFSPA. “The northeast and Kashmir are the worst sufferers of this Act. This has to be scrapped,” he said. Babloo Loitongbam, member of the Just Peace Foundation in Mizoram, said the AFSPA was in place in the northeast for 53 years. “Mizoram, Tripura and Nagaland crave for the abrogation of the AFSPA. “Similarly, Kashmir also yearns for the same. The year 2011 provides us a chance to take this struggle to its logical conclusion,” he said.