New Delhi: The re-arrest of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ Irom Sharmila by the Manipur police on the charge of attempting suicide, two days after a Manipur court acquitted her of an identical charge, reveals the cynicism of authorities in the state, Amnesty International India said on Wednesday.
“Courts have now ruled three times in 18 months that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is not an attempt at suicide. Her re-arrest on the same charge flies in the face of common sense, and amounts to downright abuse of the criminal justice system,” said Tara Rao, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India.
On 29 February, the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (Imphal West) acquitted Irom Sharmila of the charge of attempting to commit suicide, and ordered her to be released. The court stated: “One may appreciate the resolute commitment of [Irom Sharmila] to her stand rather than take it as an excuse for slapping her with charges of criminal offence.” The court further stated that the prosecution had “miserably failed to prove the charges… of the offence of attempt to commit suicide”.
On 23 January 2015, the Manipur police had similarly re-arrested Irom Sharmila a day after the court of the Judicial Magistrate (Imphal East) had rejected the charge of attempting suicide and ordered her release. On 22 August 2014, the police had re-arrested her three days after the Manipur East Sessions Court stated that her hunger strike was a ‘political demand through a lawful means’ and ordered her release.
Irom Sharmila has been on a prolonged hunger strike for over 15 years, demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which provides sweeping powers to soldiers, including the power to shoot to kill in certain situations, and virtual immunity from prosecution in civilian courts. The law is in force in Jammu and Kashmir and parts of states in northeast India.