Civil rights activists paid tribute to the Irom Sharmila, the 'Iron Lady' of Manipur who has been fasting since 2000 to demand the removal of the armed forces from her state.
The Mumbai Committee for Release of Binayak Sen organised a function at Ajmera Hall, near Grant Road Station, to express solidarity to Sharmila's fight against the Armed Forces and Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the northeastern states. Activists claim that the Act was the biggest threat to human rights.
Pune-based dancer, SV Ojas, performed a one-act play 'Le Mashalein' at the function. The title Le Mashalein (bearing torch) is inspired from the motivational song, 'Ley mashalein chal pade hai log mere gaon ke'.
Ojas enacted Sharmila's struggle as an ongoing fight for human rights. The play comprised a Powerpoint presentations, dance and conversations with the audience. Under AFSPA, which has been into force in Manipur and other northeastern states since 1958, an officer of armed forces has powers to kill someone on suspicion, search and enter any premises and arrest without a warrant in the disturbed areas.
Ojas described Sharmila as a girl brought up being afraid of army men, seeing women of all ages disappearing and later being raped and killed, their bodies thrown away in the jungles or raped at gun points. He said how after joining the Human Rights Alert Organisation, Sharmila learnt that kidnapping was an unlawful activity.
"She decided to pledge something for her rights and it was her life that she pledged announcing a fast unto death."