Court charges Manipur activist Irom Sharmila for attempted suicide

Even as Manipur's leading social activist Irom Sharmila, produced before a Delhi court today, refused to plead guilty of attempted suicide, Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain proceeded to frame charges against her under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

Sharmila has been on a protest fast for about 12 years demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in force over Manipur and other north-eastern states. She is currently being force-fed by Delhi Police.

She was charged with attempted suicide by police after she took her protest out of Imphal and on to New Delhi's Jantar Mantar in 2006, after her fast had already lasted six years.

Attempted suicide is punishable under Indian law, with up to one year's imprisonment.

The court told her counsel earlier in the hearing to explain to Sharmila that she has already been in custody for more than six years, so if she were to plead guilty, the case would be settled immediately. But she refused to take this way out.

Asked by the magistrate if she tried to commit suicide, she replied, "No. I only want justice.'' She added that she ''loves life''.