Manipur court releases Irom Sharmila

Imphal, Feb 29 (IANS) A court here on Monday released Irom Sharmila, who has been on a 15-year-long hunger strike to press for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, from custody.

“Sharmila was charged with attempting to commit suicide under Section 309 of IPC. However the court found no evidence to establish that she is trying to commit suicide and accordingly ordered her release,” C. Momon, Sharmila’s advocate, told reporters.

Given Sharmila’s condition and her resolve to continue her fast unto death, she may be re-arrested as soon as Tuesday, a police officer told IANS.

She has been arrested, tried and released several times on the charge of trying to take her own life.

Sharmila is also undergoing trial in the Patiala House court in Delhi on the same charge.

“I shall continue the fast at the footsteps of the Shahid Minar in Imphal town. I will not eat anything till my goal is achieved,” she said while coming out of the court room on Monday.

Sharmila had started her hunger strike on November 4, 2000. Her main demand is the repeal of the AFSPA, 1958.

She expressed regret over the declining support to her cause, particularly from women activists.

“I am sorry that women activists and civil society organisations have distanced themselves from me and my cause. If they had extended support to my campaign, perhaps by now the AFSPA, which gives carte blanche to the security forces, might have been repealed,” she said.

She further said, “I am not discouraged by the lack of support since I know that victory will be there at last.”

In view of the declining support, however, she has said several times that there should be a public debate on whether she should continue her fast.

She also said that at least one representative each of the numerous civil society organisations should join her in the campaign.

There has been virtually no response to her appeal.

Until her release on Monday, Sharmila was lodged in a security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences here.

She is guarded round-the-clock by jail, police and hospital staff. The government is spending about Rs.70,000 a month on her medication and feeding her through the nose.

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