Campaign against AFSPA in Solidarity with Sharmila Irom

As part of a broader initiative under the banner of  Peoples’ Solidarity Concerns – Bangalore, New Socialist Alternative (CWI – India) was involved in a week long campaign in Bangalore in the first week of February in solidarity with the 10 year old fast being undertaken by Irom Chanu Sharmila, a Manipuri poet & activist, highlighting the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) & the simmering nationality question in India.

Ojas Playing the role of Sharmila

The crucial part of this campaign was the staging of mono act play by Ojas Suniti Vijay (a Pune based theatre activist) by using the metaphor of Irom Sharmila to narrate what life is like in Manipur under AFSPA. Nearly 15 plays were performed at several locations across the city that included colleges like St. Joseph’s in Bangalore. This was followed by a day long Seminar held on 3rd Feb that involved active Manipuri activists such as Babloo Loitongbam (Human Rights alert), Nitan (Extra-Judicial Execution Victim Families’ Association, Manipur – EEFAM), Prof. Bimol (Jawaharlal Nehru University – JNU) & others who have been victims of Indian state terror. The campaign concluded with a massive protest that involved participation by over 750 people mostly students & youth from various colleges of Bangalore.

Cde. Jagadish Chandra addressing the Protest

The campaign also saw significant intervention on the part of New Socialist Alternative (NSA) which was both an active participant as well as organizing the entire event along with other supporting organizations. Jagadish Chandra (member of NSA) said that it is a shame that the Indian Govt. has not moved on the issue where people’s hearts all over the world has moved. “We believe that civil society in Bangalore must ask a serious question about why we are paying taxes to maintain the second largest army in the World, which is responsible for shooting, torture, rape and murder of innocent people in Manipur as well as in other parts of North East’’, he posed (Source: The Sangai Express).

Youth at the protest

To the people of Manipur, AFSPA symbolizes all the worst features of a system that not only oppresses them under the living nightmare of a (de facto) military occupation but also having to live under Indian capitalism that has neither brought them decent jobs or provided them with basic necessities. The implementation of this law has led to brutal rapes, arbitrary detentions, “disappearances”, killings and loot. This law is being brutally used by security forces to terrorize and subordinate local communities in the name of counter-insurgency.

Babloo Loitongbam speaking to the Press

The Indian Subcontinent, which can be described in Lenin’s words as a prison house of nations, due to the failure of capitalism in India is like a tinder box waiting to explode. All our campaigns on the nationality question, whether be it solidarity with the Tamils in the genocidal war waged against them in Sri Lanka or the struggle of people of Jammu & Kashmir or the oppressed nationalities of the Northeast, have highlighted the fact the issue is not just within framework of human rights & justice framework of NGO’s, but to what lies at the core of it is the exploitation & oppression faced by the majority of the populace in the region under Capitalism & landlordism.