Srinagar-Imphal March Against AFSPA Begins16 October 2011
Srinagar: Demanding revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast, members of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC) group Sunday said right to self-determination was a viable way to resolve Kashmir issue. The key members of the group were speaking before starting the campaign march from Srinagar to Imphal in solidarity with activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for the last 10 years demanding revocation of AFSPA which provides impunity to armed forces. Magsaysay awardee, Dr Sandeep Pandey and renowned activist Medha Patkar flagged off the caravan at city’s Press Enclave. The group, comprising about 20 activists, will cover 10 states (a distance of about 4500 kms) before the culmination of the march at Imphal on October 27. On the occasion, Pandey said North East and Kashmir have witnessed worst form of injustice. Drawing parallels between Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir, he said, “I believe Northeast and Kashmir have witnessed worst form of injustice. Unabated arrests, rapes, tortures, killings, mass graves; this is all because of the AFSPA. People of Northeast and Kashmir would leave no stone unturned to see the end of AFSPA.” About the campaign, he said, “Our journey will start from Srinagar and culminate at Imphal on October 27. It will cover one crore people with the demand for revocation of AFSPA.” Pandey said he was moved by the plight of Abdul Ahad Rah whose two sons have disappeared. “This is how things have been going on in Kashmir.” Talking to Rising Kashmir, Pandey said Kashmir’s status as integral part of India is subject to debate and that right to self- determination is a viable way to resolve the longstanding issue. “There have been strong voices from many quarters about Kashmir being an integral part of India. But I believe this thing is subject to debate. Till then I am of the opinion that people are the supreme authority. Kashmir’s fate should be decided by Kashmiris. Right to self determination is a viable way to resolve the issue.” On whether there was the same demand in Northeastern states as well, he said demands vary. “Some states are for autonomy while some want independence.” Speaking on the occasion, prominent social activist, Medha Patekar praised Sharmila for her courage to remain on fast for the last 10 years. “When Anna’s 12-day fast could move the entire nation, why can’t Sharmila’s 10-year-long fast help remove AFSPA?” Patekar said Kashmir was a complex problem and needed a resolution by means of dialogue. On whether she supported implementation of United Nation’s resolution that guarantee right to self-determination, she evaded direct reply. “There has to be a dialogue. Solution can’t be found through gun. Violence is no solution. I believe dialogue is the way forward. There has to be a common minimum denominator,” Patekar said, adding that let there be a beginning in this direction in the form of AFSPA revocation. “Interlocutors have recommended scrapping of AFSPA. Many other groups have recommended the same.” She said Anna did not disown Bhusan’s comments on Kashmir. “The facts have been distorted by media. Anna has stated that core group would look into Bhushan’s Kashmir remarks. Attack on him was strongly condemned,” said Patekar, who is also the member of team Anna. Addressing the activists, Sharmila’s brother, Irom Singhjit said their family had taken a pledge to fight for revocation of AFSPA. “North East and Kashmir are the worst sufferers of this Act. It has to be scrapped.” Babloo Loitongbam, member of Mizoram-based ‘Just Peace Foundation’, said AFSPA was in place in Northeast for the last 53 years. “There is a similar situation in Northeastern states like Mizoram, Tripora and Nagaland which crave for the abrogation of AFSPA. “Kashmir also yearns for the same. The year 2011 provides us a chance to take this struggle to a logical conclusion,” he said, shouting slogan ‘Down with AFSPA’. Speaking on the occasion, MLA Langate, Engineer Rashid said Acts like AFSPA, PSA and DAA should be revoked without further delay. “I salute Irom Sharmila for her courage. I want to assure her supporters that Kashmir is with you. Kashmiris are the worst sufferers of these Acts. People in areas close to LoC have faced the brunt of these Acts. We won’t rest unless these draconian acts are removed.” Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons led by Parveena Ahanger, separatist leader Zamrooda Habib, RTI activist Muzaffar Bhat and NGO ‘The Inner Call’ extended support to the SSS campaign. In her address, Ahanger said hundreds of youth who have disappeared could not be traced because of the Acts like AFSPA. “This Act has made troopers unaccountable. This Act provides impunity to troopers to rape and kill.” Bhat said they will put in our best to take AFSPA revocation campaign to its logical conclusion. Members of SSSC later took out a rally led by Patekar and Rashid amid anti-AFSPA slogans through Residency Road. More than 50 organisations including National Alliance of People's Movement, Asha Parivar, Khudai Khidmatgar, Mission Bhartiyam, Sadbhav mission, ANHAD, J&K RTI Movement, INSAF, PEACE, Centre for Social Justice, Yuva Koshish, SAMAR, Le Mashale, Society for Youth Development, Asian Centre for Social Studies, Just Peace Foundation, We The Common People (WTCP), Student Islamic Organization (SIO), Mahila Chetna Kendra, Jagriti Mahila Samiti, Inqualab Zindabad, Society for Youth Development, Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA, Rights Initiative, Islamic Relief & Research Trust and many others have already extended support to the SSS campaign.