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Sharmila continues fast in Imphal

IMPHAL (IANS): Two days after her acquittal by a Delhi court, rights activist Irom Sharmila is continuing her fast unto death in her security room in Imphal’s J.N. Institute of Medical Sciences, a kind of sub-jail.

As she is refusing to eat or drink anything despite the court order, her nose feeding continues. The 42-year-old activist has declined food or drink for the last 16 years, seeking repeal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

She was acquitted by the Patiala House Court in Delhi on Wednesday in a case of attempted suicide registered in 2006 when she undertook a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in Delhi.

On arrival in Imphal on Thursday, Sharmila expressed her disappointment that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had no time to interact with her. She added that in India, “there is little meaning of democracy, and this is hampering the development.”

About Judge Harvinder Singh acquitting her, Sharmila said it was a right decision and all along she has been denying the prosecution charge that she was trying to commit suicide.

“I am using fasting as a weapon to achieve my objective. It is a weapon which was used by the father of the nation (Mahatma Gandhi). I want to live, and I love my life,” she said.

She had been earlier set free on two occasions on the orders of the District and Sessions court, Imphal West, as the prosecution failed to substantiate the charge of the attempted suicide.

But within hours of being released, she was rearrested as she continued fasting while other activists sat along with her. But Sharmila is now disappointed that people have virtually stopped supporting her campaign.

“I want a public opinion on whether I should continue the campaign for repealing the AFSPA from Manipur,” she said afer her release in Delhi.

On another occasion, Sharmila said she would continue her fast till her demand was conceded.

All these years several leaders from the Centre and state have appealed to her to give up fasting. However, she has all along refused all such appeals.

Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh said: “We may lift the AFSPA from the rest of the state. On August 12, 2004, we had lifted it from seven assembly segments on experimental basis despite objections from some circles.”

“If the insurgents intensify their violence after lifting it from the entire state, we will have to approach the Centre again to re-impose the AFSPA.”

Official indications, however, are that the dwindling public support to Sharmila’s campaign is allowing the state government a sigh of relief.

Sharmila is also unhappy that police did not permit the Manipuri students in Delhi to talk to her in the court complex.

“It is denial of their fundamental rights,” she said, adding the student groups in Manipur should also join the campaign which is for the protection of human rights.

She periodically appears in the court of the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal West, on charge of attempted suicide.
In Manipur too, she is refusing to furnish personal bond to get bail.

Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code permits the authorities to detain her for one year and at the end of each year she is ritually released. The state government spends over Rs.80,000 per month over her medication and nose feeding, and security.

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