IRON LADY RELEASED BUT CONTINUES HER FAST
Irom Chanu Sharmila
NEW DELHI: The crusader of civil rights in Manipur, Irom Chanu Sharmila resumed her fast unto death as soon as she was released on Thursday night after the Imphal court quashed the charges levelled against her.
Manipur's Imphal East district court termed the charges against her by the police as” baseless” and without any foundation, ordering her immediate release from the hospital-turned-jail.
However, the moment she was released Sharmila went straight to the Elephant State Zoo in Imphal from where she went back on her fast unto death. She was accompanied by her supporters and women activists of Save Sharmila Group.
Chances are that the human right activist might soon be rearrested, probably on Saturday. A medical team is constantly monitoring her health and police are standing by at a short distance to arrest her again.
This is the second time that charges against her have been quashed by the Court.
Last August as well, she was released after the district court had dismissed the charge of attempt to commit suicide which had been levelled against her even then. However, soon after her release she was arrested again on August 22 by the police as she continued her fast.
The police then filed a fresh charge sheet against her, accusing her of attempting to commit suicide (Section 309 of the IPC) and obstructing arrest (Section 353 of the IPC), which met the same fate this time as well.
The charges were again rejected by the Judicial magistrate, Wisdom Kamodang, who said that the charges of attempt to commit suicide and obstruction to her arrest were baseless and there was no evidence to prove the charges.
“I will continue the fast until the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is repealed. I do not want to die. I want to live like any other normal person," Sharmila said after coming out of the court on Thursday.
It is pertinent to mention here that ‘Iron Lady’, as she is popularly known, is on a fast unto death since November, 2000 demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958, which she calls a “draconian” Act.
She began her hunger strike in November 2000 to press for repeal of the act after Assam Rifles personnel killed 10 civilians at Malom near Imphal airport while retaliating to a militant attack.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which covers large parts of northeastern India and Kashmir, allows security forces to search, enter property and shoot-on-sight.
The repeal of the infamous act has also been recommended by a number of national bodies, including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, the Jeevan Reddy Commission and the Prime Minister's Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Justice Verma Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law also said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimised impunity for sexual violence, and recommended an urgent review of the law.
Sharmila has been residing at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal, which has been turned into a jail. where she survives on nasal feeding.
Further, she is released every year on completing her year-long jail term but only to be rearrested soon.
Amnesty International, in March, 2013 also appealed to the Indian authorities to immediately release Irom Sharmila Chanu and drop all charges against her.
Even though the Supreme Court of India decriminalised suicide,recently, the activist will apparently be soon arrested on charges of committing suicide only.
It will be interesting to witness what the Manipur government will do in such a case.