IMPHAL, Nov 02: The ‘Malom Massacre’ was mournfully remembered on the 13th anniversary of the incident in which 10 civilians, including a 62-year-old woman, were killed in an indiscriminate firing by personnel of the 8th Assam Rifles on this day, November 2, 2000, which had prompted Irom Sharmila to take the fast-unto-death agitation.
Families of the victims and the Just Peace Foundation (JPF) paid floral tribute to the departed souls at their memorial site at Malom Makha Leikai along Imphal Tulihal Airport Road.
The families said they feel unhappy to learn that the over one decade-old case is still pending in the Gauhati High Court.
On November 2, 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal valley, the 10 civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles while waiting at a bus stop. The incident later came to be known to activists as the “Malom Massacre.” The next day’s local newspapers published graphic pictures of the dead bodies, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner.
As many as 42 people were dragged out from their houses and cornered at a site and severely beaten up by the personnel of the Paramilitary Force after the firing.
Sharmila began to fast in protest of the killings, taking neither food nor water.
Three days after she began her strike, she was arrested by the police and charged with an “attempt to commit suicide”, which is unlawful under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, and was later transferred to judicial custody. Her health deteriorated rapidly, and the police then forcibly had to use nosogastric intubation in order to keep her alive while under arrest. Since then, Irom Sharmila has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since under IPC section 309, a person who “attempts to commit suicide” is punishable “with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year (or with fine, or with both)”.
On Saturday, Irom Singajit, a trustee of JPF in a statement informed that the Amnesty International, India has launched a four-day campaign to release Sharmila across the country from Saturday. The fast by Sharmila will complete 13 years on November 5.
In Manipur, a one-day fasting will be observed at the office premises of the Sharmila Kanba Lup on November 5 and then a candle lighting at night as part of the campaign.
On November 4, a series of Sharmila programmes showing solidarity to Sharmila will be organised at Kashala Sanskritic Manch, Mahatma Gandhi International Hindi Univesity, Wardha in Maharashtra, including a visit by the campaigners to Sevagram where Gandhi had launched his non-violent struggle after coming back from South Africa against the British rule.
During the campaign the Civil Rights and Social Justice Society is also planning a big public meeting in Kerala, the home state of Defence Minister AK Antony. Leader of Kerala Assembly, VS Achyutanand will also take part in the meeting.
In West Bengal, activists are also preparing to handover memorandum to the Governor of that state on the demand to release Sharmila, the statement said.