A march from Cherthala in Kerala to Imphal, capital of Manipur, will begin on April 16. It is being organized by social activists of Kerala in solidarity with Irom Sharmila, whose fast demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in the tenth year.
Sharmila has been in police custody during this period, except for short breaks. She has been charged with attempted suicide and is being fed forcibly through the nose.
The Sunday Theatre of Kozhikode has been staging a solo play titled “Women with Torches”, based on Irom Sharmila’s life and struggle, in different parts of Kerala for some time. Beginning yesterday, a march is being held in the State as part of the preparations for the long march to Manipur.
Writer and feminist activist Sara Joseph will lead the march. It will pass through Bengalooru, Chennai, Nellore, Vijayawada, Bhopal, Delhi, Kolkata and Guwahati. Jnanpith award winning writer Mahasweta Devi will join the march towards the end.
The sponsors of the march have raised a series of questions: In a democratic society, must there not be space for democratic struggles? Must not the government seek to settle such struggles? Must not civil society give its support for the success of such struggles? Why is it that popular agitations from Narmada to Chengara do not get such consideration? Why is it that no responsible person has talked to this woman who is engaged in a non-violent struggle, which has attracted national and international attention, against a black law that does not even allow complaints to be lodged against army excesses? What justification is there for President Pratibha Patil or Prime Minister Manmohan Singh or First Lady of Indian power structure Sonia Gandhi or Defence Minister A. K. Antony not talking to her even once?
Explaining the choice of Cherthala as the starting point of the march, they say: “The first reason for taking out the peace march from Cherthala is that our Defence Minister is a Malayali and Cherthala is his home town and (former) constituency. We are trying to address the conscience of a democratic leader who has considered his mother as his main inspiration while she was alive and even after her death and claims to be the personification of political correctness.” The march will terminate at the Imphal hail where Sharmila is lodged.
T. R. N. Prabhu and Civic Chandran are the coordinators of the march.