After 14 years of force feeding, Manipur court orders Irom Sharmila's release

In long overdue relief for the activist, a Manipur court has ordered the release of Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on fast for the past 13 years to demand withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state.

According to CNN-IBN reports, the court has said that the attempt to commit suicide charge could not be established and that it was a mere allegation.

Irom Sharmila. Reuters

Irom Sharmila. Reuters

Sharmila is currently under house arrest and is being force fed through a nasal tube.

Every time Sharmila has been released, she has been re-arrested. The last time she was arrested was on 15 March 2014.

Sharmila launched her fast in November 2000 after ten persons were killed allegedly by Assam Rifles in an encounter with militants at Malom near Imphal airport.

Sharmila had repeatedly said earlier that she does not want to be on a fast and would love to eat if AFSPA was revoked. "I love my life very much and I am very much eager to eat something right here in the court, if I get an assurance that this undemocratic AFSPA is revoked," Sharmila had said on 28 May, 2014.

AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur that have been declared "disturbed areas" because of ongoing armed militancy.

Soon after Narendra Modi's election, Sharmila had expressed her desire to meet him "to highlight the sufferings of the people through the imposition of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in Manipur and in other northeastern states as well," Ms Sharmila's counsel Khaidem Mani told IANS.

"We will seek an appointment with the prime minister. We are hopeful that the prime minister would give Ms Sharmila an audience to listen to her. Ms Sharmila is optimist that the new government will surely heed her words and repeal AFSPA from Manipur," he said.

It is unlikely that the Modi government will intervene one way or another -- or repeal the AFSPA in a hurry. Her fate likely rests with the Manipur government which, according to CNN-IBN, is free to challenge the order in a higher court. There is no news right now as to whether it will do so.

After so many years, the stand-off between Sharmila and the Manipur government has gained the stature of legend and turned her into an icon of civil disobedience. That said, now that she has been released, the government finds itself in an unenviable position where it either continues its efforts to force-feed Sharmila or lets her fast until death.

Updated Date: Aug 19, 2014 15:41 PM

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