More than 250 people attended a meeting organised by the Coalition for the Repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Bangalore on the evening of 16 September. The venue was the National College, Basavangudi, and the hall in which the meeting was held was full to capacity.
The meeting began with a brief cultural program, followed by a video which vividly portrayed the mass character of the struggle now unfolding in Manipur, as well as the brutality with which the police and armed forces in Manipur are dealing with it. The video left the audience shocked and moved.
Following this, Dr. L.Pardesi Singh of the Committee on Human Rights in Manipur, was invited to give the main speech. Dr. Singh gave a vivid picture of the struggle in Manipur. He also outlined the historical context of the current struggle and explained the circumstances under which the AFSPA came to be imposed most unjustly on Manipur. At the same time, the speaker emphasised that the brutal manner in which the Indian state has dealt with the demand for political and human rights in Manipur is essentially the same way that they deal with the just struggles of the people all over the country. He explained that the method of the rulers today, just like those of the British colonial rulers, is to divide and isolate the peoples who are fighting from each other. To resounding applause, he said that we should defeat these tactics and consider an attack on one as an attack on all, and fully support the struggle of the people against the unjust system everywhere.
After this, an activist from a women’s organisation explained how rape and assault on women is used as a weapon to attack the people’s struggles and terrorise them. A professor and leading member of a human rights organisation also spoke denouncing the atrocities perpetrated by the armed forces in Manipur, and endorsed the demand for the complete repeal of the AFSPA. A youth from one of the city’s colleges then spoke passionately about how it is extremely important that people from outside Manipur should not consider this struggle as something that doesn’t concern them, but should understand and give full support to this cause. Many participants put their signature to a written demand that was circulated for the complete repeal of the AFSPA.
The evening ended with an impressive rally that was taken out from the venue of the meeting. Carrying candles and placards, and accompanied by militant shouting of slogans, the demonstration wound its way through the busy city streets, attracting the attention of a large number of passersby.