INDIA: Human rights defender awarded for lifetime achievement 

Menghaobi, alias Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila, more known as Manipur’s beacon of peace and hope, received the Lifetime Achievement Award on 26 January. Sharmila shares the award with Mr. Tenzing Tsude, Prof. Hassan Mansoor, Fr. Claude, Mr. Abhay Sahoo, Mr. Prasanta Paikray, Mr. Cherkadi Rama Chandra Rao, Mr. H. Ganapati Appa Sagara, Ms. Anasuyamma Allalasandra and Mr. Himanshu Kumar.

The award is organised by a collective of Indian NGOs and was presented in a ceremony held at Bangalore. Sharmila however could not participate in the function since she is held in house arrest in Manipur. For further information about her struggle, which entered the 11th year this year, please see: AHRC-STM-252-2009.

Unable to be present during the ceremony, Sharmila, accepting the award, sent a letter to the Union Minister of Law and Justice, Dr. Veerappa Moily. The letter is reproduced below:

Message from Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu
The Civil Society Submit 2010
Bangalore, 24 – 26 January

The tranquillity or disorderliness of a society is dependent on the relationship between the civil society and it Rulers. Just like the relationship between the King and the Queen bees on the one hand and their numerous offspring on the other. The offspring build a hive in accordance to the directives of the Rulers. And they all settle together happily inside the hive with plenty of food, honey and in the safety of a secured shelter.

But this pristine peace is not eternal. As the offspring matures and assumes multiple roles, contestation and competition crops up. One tries to outsmart the other right besides the much coveted Couple. The harmony of the hive is disturbed. The inevitable intermittent fractional fighting leads to dilapidation of the hive and ultimately ruined the bees.

The role of civil society within a nation, much like the offspring bees, is enormous. They are the every back bone of the nation. The capacity to stand united by overcoming our narrow sectarian interest, by realising the common good in building up a just social order and by our commitment to work hard to achieve this higher goal is the only way to bring about emancipation in our society. These virtues alone can make our dream of Justice – social, economic and political – come true. This alone can abolish starvation and poverty that has chronically plaguing our society.

I am of the firm belief that it will also heighten Nature’s Beauty. And Her Beauty will ultimately harmonise with mankind’s well being. And in the same manner as honey contributes towards our well being and wax enhances the beauty of our cloths, an organically-evolved value-based civil-society can bring about a Civilized Universe wherein all our fundamental rights and basic freedoms can be realised in its true sense.

My warmest regards to each and every one of you who have contributed toward sustaining this hope for a just-world order! From the confines of my hospital bed in Imphal I wish the Civil Society Summit 2010 a Grand Success!

Document Type : Statement
Document ID : AHRC-STM-017-2010
Countries : India,
Issues : Human rights defenders,