Manipur, IMPHAL, March 20: Rights body Amnesty International has called upon Indian authorities to immediately release Irom Sharmila Chanu – a protester on a prolonged hunger strike and drop all charges against her.
The Amnesty International statement said: “Irom Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast since November 2000, protesting against the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the state of Manipur. She was arrested shortly after she began her hunger strike and charged with attempting to commit suicide – a criminal offence under Indian law. Irom Sharmila, was released on March 12, 2013 by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court of Imphal East only to be re-arrested on March 14 and remanded again to judicial custody till March 26. On March 4, a Delhi court had also charged Irom Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide in October 2006, when she staged a protest in Delhi for two days.”
Pointing out that Irom Sharmila has never been brought to trial, the statement said that the anti AFSPA crusader has been regularly released upon the completion of a period of one year in judicial custody, only to be re-arrested shortly thereafter as she continues her fast.
The statement from the Rights body mentioned further that Sharmila has pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempting to commit suicide, and has said she is holding a non-violent protest. Although attempting to commit suicide is a bailable offence in India, Sharmila has refused to sign the bail-bonds, maintaining that she had not committed any offence, and has instead called for the criminal charges against her to be dropped.
The British Medical Association, in a briefing to the World Medical Association, has clarified that “A hunger strike is not equivalent to suicide. Individuals who embark on hunger strikes aim to achieve goals important to them but generally hope and intend to survive.” This position is embodied by the World Medical Association in its Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers, the statement said.
Amnesty International has also previously called upon the Government to repeal the AFSPA, which provides impunity for perpetrators of serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape and torture.