Manipur court orders release of activist Irom Sharmila

A sessions court in Manipur today ordered the immediate release of civil rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been under house arrest for going on an indefinite hunger strike demanding repeal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

The 42-year-old 'Iron Lady' of Manipur has been kept under house arrest saying that she may commit suicide and was being force-fed for the past 13 years by the state government at a government hospital.

She is currently being fed through her nose at the security ward of the state-run Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) close to her Kongpal Kongkham Leikai residence in Imphal East district.

The Manipur government had slapped a case of attempted suicide on her. But the court dismissed the state government's argument that she was attempting to commit suicide by going on a hunger strike.

Sharmila, who has been on a fast for the last 13 years demanding repeal of the controversial AFSPA, moved the session court (Manipur East) challenging an earlier order passed by the chief judicial magistrate (Imphal East) on 4 June that charged her under section 309 IPC (attempt to commit suicide).

Noted human rights lawyer Khaidem Mani, who appeared on behalf of Sharmila, said that she was not attempting to commit suicide but protesting simply against the AFSPA. At no point of time, Sharmila attempted to end her life during her prolonged protest and hence the charge levelled against her under section 309 IPC cannot be taken into account, her advocate said.

Ordering her release, the court observed that the prosecution has failed to establish section 309 (Attempt to Suicide) case on Irom Sharmila.

The court said that it is just an allegation that she wants to commit suicide, hence she cannot be kept under arrest and should be released immediately.

Sharmila went on an indefinite hunger strike to demand repeal of the Act after the killing of 10 civilians allegedly by the Assam Rifles near Imphal airport in November 2000.

She wants the AFSPA repealed ''so that people could live without any fear in the state''.