New Delhi: A panel of intellectuals including actors, filmmakers and journalists appealed to the people to join activist Irom Chanu Sharmila in her demand of annulling Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Manipur.

"People know Irom Sharmila only as a lady with a tube in her nose. Even I for that matter got to know about her only five years ago. There is a need to raise awareness about her," veteran Bollywood actor Sharmila Tagore said in New Delhi on Tuesday evening.

She was speaking at the launch of a book "Iron Irom Two Journeys - Where the Abnormal is Normal" authored by documentary filmmaker Minnie Vaid. Irom Sharmila, a human rights activist, has been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA from the state and is on an indefinite hunger strike for more than a decade.

Dubbed as the 'Iron Lady of Manipur', she began her fast on November 2, 2000, after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop. Vaid, who has worked extensively in the strife-torn state, asked why the government was silent over Sharmila's peaceful protest.

"Let's talk more and more about Sharmila and write books on her. We have to support anti-AFSPA movement if we respect her and want her to lead a normal life," Vaid said.

Pradip Phanjoubam, editor of Imphal Free Press newspaper was also present on the occasion. "AFSPA is the failure of liberal India. Its existence in the state is biggest failure for the country," Phanjoubam said.

Irom Sharmila is currently admitted at Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Manipur capital Imphal.

AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant special powers and immunity from prosecution to security forces to deal with raging insurgencies in the Northeastern states of India.


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