A bunch of more than 60 artists from various parts of the country have designed postcards to express their solidarity with 'Iron Lady' Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for the last 12 years for repeal of the 'draconian' Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Conceptualised by Mumbai-based art forum 'The Root', the unique postcards uses the creativity of artists in the form of doodles, sketches, graphic designs and paintings to seek justice for Sharmila and her non-violent Gandhian struggle.
Graphic designer Nitesh Mohanty who started the initiative says they plan to display the artworks at art galleries, colleges and street community centers across Mumbai and would eventually be handed over to Sharmila in Imphal.
"The objective is telling Sharmila that we have not forgotten her. It's a reminder to her that we believe in her path of peaceful struggle against oppression," Mohanty said from Mumbai.
Besides having striking visual elements, the postcards have messages like 'Justice is meant to be blind not bound. Repeal AFSPA' and 'Her crime is to care. She is the Iron Lady of Manipur'.
Design artist Abhishek Majumder, who was born and brought up in Kolkata, says he has many friends from the north-east and always felt sympathetic to the cause of Sharmila.
"She has transcended from being a person to a symbol of peaceful opposition to AFSPA. As an artist I have always feel for causes which support the right of an individual to live with dignity," he says when asked what prompted him to join the "Postcards for Irom" movement.
Majumder's postcard highlights the tube attached to her nose permanently through which Sharmila is forcibly fed lest she might die for not eating or drinking even water.
Delhi-based painter Bhanu Pratap has come up with a portrait of Sharmila where she looks outside of the window hoping for a repeal of AFSPA and her endless pursuit for peace in Manipur.
Other artists from cities like Mumbai and Bangalore have used more abstract means to support the cause.
Two of these postcards also feature in an Irom Sharmila biography titled "Iron Irom: Two Journeys" by writer and documentary filmmaker Minnie Vaid.
The postcards will be up for display during the book launch at Mumbai’s Kitab Khana on International Womens' Day tomorrow and then will be sent to Irom.
A civil rights activist and poet, her non-violent resistance has become a nucleus for collective protest against AFSPA, which allows securitymen to even kill a person on suspicion without the fear of facing a trial in court.
On November 2, 2000, an Assam Rifles battalion had allegedly killed 10 civilians in a village near Imphal. Three days later, Sharmila embarked on her fast, demanding revocation of AFSPA.
Hunger strike is seen as an attempt to commit suicide, a punishable offence, by the court and since then she has been kept under arrest at a special ward of Jawaharlal Nehru hospital in Imphal.