Human rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanua “who has been fasting since 2000 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958,” was released from a hospital turned into a jail Thursday. The development came after a court in Manipur’s Imphal East district rejected the charges against her. Soon after the verdict, the activist was released from the hospital ward in Imphal, which was turned into a jail for her all these years.
But just after release, Sharmila resumed her fast, her colleagues said. This is the second time that the court in Manipur has struck down the charges against her. Last August, Sharmila was released following an order of the sessions court, which dismissed the prosecution charge against her. However, police arrested her soon after to “save” her life as she continued with her hunger strike against the AFSPA.
The re-arrest was made under IPC Sections 309 (attempt to commit suicide) and 353 for obstructing police from discharging duty. “The court in its ruling today observed that there was no material evidence on the charges against her and, accordingly, ordered her release,” Sharmila’s counsel Khaidem Mani said. Asked if she could be arrested again, the advocate said that it was up to the Manipur government. “I hope the issues Sharmila has been fighting for all these years will be dealt with politically rather than criminalising her struggle,” said Manipur-based Human Rights Activist Babloo Loingtongbam while expressing his happiness over her release.
Sharmila has been fasting since November 2000 to demand repeal of the AFSPA. She decided to sit for indefinite fast after the Assam Rifles killed 10 civilians at Malom in Imphal. 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 said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimised impunity for sexual violence, and recommended an urgent review of the law. In March 2013, the Amnesty International also appealed to the Indian authorities to immediately release Irom Sharmila Chanu and drop all charges against her. (IANS)