IMPHAL: At the Manipur Press Club this afternoon, Team Sharmila4Change,a support group that came into existence this summer when Irom Sharmila ended her nearly 16-year-long fast,announced theformation ofa new political party, thePeople’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance.
Erendro Leichombam, a 33-year old educationist and entrepreneur with a degree from Harvard, acted as Convenor. Irom Sharmila Chanu, along with activists Najma and James Mayengbam, as co-convenors.
The date, October 18, was chosen as it coincides with the commencement of Manipur’s first state assembly session in 1948 – before it was mergedwith the Indian Union in 1949. Sharmila and the team earlier commemorated the event by paying homage at the site. They also sought blessing at the Kangla, another site of historical significance for Manipuris.
The PRJA is based on four principles – Justice, Understanding, Love and Peace. Their prime agenda is the repeal of AFSPA, but they will strive to redress all forms of violence and militarization. The party members led by Sharmila pledged to use only non-violence as a means to achieve their political goals.
At least 20 candidates will contest in the state election scheduled for February 2017. Sharmilaplans to contest two constituencies, Thoubal AC and Khurai AC: her own locality, and the constituency of the present Chief MinisterIbobi Singh. Contesting in Thoubal AC isa symbolic message of her taking a stand against the Chief Minister, who has held the reigns of the state for as many years as her own fast for the repeal of AFSPA.
PRJA’s convenor Erendro Leichombam will contest from Thangmeiband constituency. Najma Phundreimayum, a veteran women’s-rights activist,willmake history as the first Muslim woman candidate in the electoral history of Manipur. She is set to contest from Wabagai.
‘I will continue my crusade against injustice and to repeal the draconian AFSPA,’ Sharmila stated in her first political speech, which lasted 15 minutes. “I wish to table the injustice in the parliament. Let us join hands to change this corrupted regime,” she also said.
The recent encouraging order of the Supreme Court, on the 1,528 fake encounter cases, was in part the result of her struggle, along with public support. “However my sole voice has not been able to achieve the desired results,” Sharmila said. “It is imperative to voice this concern in the political arena, as it is a constitutional right to desire peace and justice. I do not wish to indulge in dirty politics, but I feel the public will support my crusade for our collective future.”
PRJA is also set to pursue an authentic anti-corruption movement, one which the party hopes will revamp the cash-oriented Indian electoral system. Rather than doling out money to voters, the partywill seekRs 10 donations from each of its supporters.“Inorder to bring a positive change, everyone needs to be a part of the process,” Sharmila said.“Our party envisages a real democracy, unlike the government that was built by buying votes.
Such government safeguards our rights and justice with unjust power.We seek to replace such government with real democracy, where the voters can live without fear and where justice prevails.”Sheemphasisedthe importance ofyoung people participating tocreate a better future.
After the announcement, volunteer forms were distributed. Online groups are already multiplying, and the PRJA appears all set to launch the 10 for Change campaign.
During her speech as a fresh politician Irom Sharmila stressed the need for the people of the state to confront the layers of injustice meted out by the corrupt state government. Her party aims to displace both the Congress and BJP, and to bring in a coalition of like-minded leaders who willtreat the welfare and justice of the people as a priority. “We will work towards economic resilience and self-reliance for the people,” they pledged.
PRJA will aim to engage the public, especially the victims of militarisation and violence. Sharmila had earlier visited villages in prominent Naga districts,Ukhrul and Senapati,which have sufferedfrom theprolonged state militarization. (Including Operation Bluebird, in which 33 villages around Oinam were besieged for three months in 1987, and a spate of violence and human-rights violations occurred. Sharmila also reached out to displaced families in and around Loktak Lake, where houses and livelihood was destroyed for state-planned tourism developments.
Sharmila repeated her appeal to the public not to dismiss the cause for which she fasted for 16 years, and towhich she is still committed. This election will be a litmus test for the people of the state on their stand on AFSPA, she said.