Even as uncertainty prevails over what will happen on Tuesday when activist Irom Sharmila tells an Imphal court of her decision to quit her 16-year hunger strike, widows in Manipur are steadfast in their resolve to fight the legal battle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
On Monday, when the buzz on the court premises was about Ms. Sharmila, with rights activists explaining to journalists how she was a symbol of resistance in Manipur, dozens of women were seen rushing through heaps of files and papers.
In a sparsely furnished hall taken on rent for a month, they are compiling details of 1,528 alleged extrajudicial killings cases sought by the Supreme Court. A data collection form with four major heads — victim’s identity, perpetrators’ identity, action taken by the family and action taken by the authorities — is being filled by the women.
The women call themselves members of EEVFAM (Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families), set up in 2009 from the proceeds of international awards given to Ms. Sharmila.
“I can’t tell you about tomorrow, I can’t predict but we will continue with our struggle as long as the AFSPA is not repealed or replaced with something more humane,” Neena Ningombam, one of the petitioners to the Supreme Court, told The Hindu.
“It was for this petition filed in 2012 that the Supreme Court in July this year observed that the AFSPA cannot be an excuse for committing excesses and retaliatory killing,” said Babloo Loitongbam, Director, Human Rights Alert, Manipur, and co-petitioner in the case.
Neena, 39, has a lot of respect for Ms. Sharmila. She hopes that even after giving up the hunger strike, Ms. Sharmila will continue to support the movement against the AFSPA.
A mother of two, the former secretary of EEVFAM had vivid memories of the November 4, 2008, incident when her husband Michael Ningombam was killed.
“He had lunch with me in the afternoon. In the evening, I saw his body on television news with a Chinese grenade by his side,” she said.
“For people like us, tomorrow [August 9 when Ms. Sharmila will end her hunger strike] cannot be the end of our fight to get justice,” said Renu Takhellambam, president of EEVFAM.
She has been president of the organisation since it was set up in 2009.
“Her husband, Mung Hanghzo, was killed on April 6, 2007. He had one bullet in the head. There are many witnesses also,” a volunteer said.
While the women say the court premises are likely to be packed on Tuesday, they will assemble and carry on their work as there is very little time. The details of the 1,528 cases need to be submitted to the Supreme Court by September 7.http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/manipur-women-vow-to-continue-fight/article8961338.ece