Irom And Her Sisters

US PRESIDENT Barack Obama’s visit eclipsed an epic moment in India’s history. On 4 November, 38-year-old Irom Sharmila marked a 10-year fast to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that has been imposed in Manipur since 1961 and most of the Northeast since 1972. The State has ignored Sharmila’s vigil and the increasingly loud protests against AFSPA. By the government’s own admission, more than 20,000 people have ‘disappeared’ in Manipur since then. In Jammu & Kashmir, where AFSPA has been in force since 1990, activists claim that between 8,000 and 10,000 people have disappeared in the custody of army, paramilitary forces and the police. In 2009, the J&K government asked the Union home ministry for the prosecution of 458 cases of murder, torture and extreme violence by the armed forces. Irom Sharmila’s superhuman courage grows out of the despair of the thousands of Manipuri families that have been broken by these extra-judicial killings. Most of those who have disappeared are under 35, newly married and young fathers. Here we tell the stories of seven AFSPA widows from Imphal.

Read the complete article in Tehelka dated September 20, 2010

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