For his years of dedicated service and leadership Dr Pandey was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2002, often considered the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Prize. He was selected in the Emergent Leadership Category, and is among five others to have won the coveted award. At 37, he is also the youngest Indian to have been conferred the award.
Dr Pandey, who was in Guwahati, on way to Imphal, the capital of Manipur, to take part at a three-day solidarity fast to support Irom Sharmila’s campaign against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur, said: “It is not only the Northeast region but the human rights violations are going on in almost every place of India. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of encounter killings in the country, but there is no draconian law like the AFSPA there. The Government of India is biased against Northeast and J&K in this issue.”
Talking about the separatist movement in the northeastern region, Dr Pandey said: “Continuous presence of military in this region will have a severe impact on the people. If this process goes on, the Northeast will soon become militarized state. Whatever form of Naxalism, separatism and terrorism exists, the only way to solve is by political solution.”
When asked about the armed conflict in Northeast, he said: “It is up to the people of the region to find out an amicable solution. What the local people want, should be respected. The Government will facilitate talks. I think dialogue is the only way to solve the insurgency. Militarisation will never solve the issue.”
Coming down heavily against the uranium mining in Meghalaya, Dr Pandey said: “Uranium is radioactive and creates health hazards. Till now world has not find out any solution to the radioactive effects. At a time when many countries have given up the nuclear programmes, it is really shocking to see the Indian Government is planning uranium mining in Meghalaya.”
Mentionably, hundreds of human rights activists from all over the country as well as from neighbouring Asian nations will assemble in Imphal today (13 September).
Sharmila had gone on hunger strike on November 2, 2000 demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, after soldiers of the Assam Rifles allegedly killed ten young Meitei men in Malom. Three days later, police arrested Sharmila on charges of ‘attempted suicide’, because suicide or attempted suicide is a criminal offence under Indian law. She was later remanded to judicial custody. To keep her alive, she was forcefully fed a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup through the nose with a rubber pipe.