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Postcard missiles for new President

Sensing that a woman could become India's President, human rights activists across 19 countries are buying out postcards for another woman against an Act the armed forces use as an armour, reports Rahul Karmakar.
Hindustan Times | By Rahul Karmakar, Guwahati
UPDATED ON JUL 02, 2007 06:56 PM IST

The person who replaces a missile technologist on Raisina Hill is likely to be bombarded with postcards from across the globe.

Sensing that a woman could move into Rashtrapati Bhavan and become the first supreme commander of India’s armed forces, human rights activists across 19 countries are buying out postcards for another woman against an Act the armed forces use as an armour.

Most of these postcards in support of Irom Sharmila’s six-year struggle against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA) would be addressed to the President of India. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi would get their share of these postcard missiles too.

According to Imphal-based rights activist Babloo Loitongbam, the postcards are unlikely to find APJ Abdul Kalam, whose tenure ends later this month. But his successor as the 12th President—Pratibha Patil or Bhairon Singh Shekhawat—would have her or his hands full of postcards seeking the repeal of AFSPA.

“South Korea-based May 18 Memorial Foundation, which had earlier this year given Sharmila the Gwangju Human Rights Award, started the year-long postcard campaign late last month,” Loitongbam said. “The campaign has caught on in 19 Asian countries and is expected to spread to other continents.”

The Gwangju Prize was established to mark the spirit of the Gwangju Uprising on May 18, 1980. Over 200 people were killed when people in the South Korean city of Gwangju rebelled against military rule and demanded establishment of democracy. The rebellion was violently suppressed by the then South Korean president Chun Doo-Hwan, who was also the country's army general.

Rights activists elsewhere in Manipur and other northeastern states have also logged on to the campaign with postcards that read: “I support the ongoing call for the repeal of the AFSPA by Irom Sharmila… We, the citizens of the world, with the people of Manipur are supporting Sharmila's struggle to revoke this drastic law." They are being handed out to people for their signatures.

The campaign, notably, follows Administrative Reforms Committee chairman Veerappa Moily’s proposal that AFSPA be scrapped. Defence minister AK Antony, though, sought status quo.

Meanwhile, Sharmila is currently lodged in Imphal’s JN Hospital, where she is being force-fed through her nose. She began her fast-onto-death demanding the repeal of the AFSPA in November 2000 following the massacre of civilians by Assam Rifles troops at Malom.

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