India’s rights activist acquitted in 2006 suicide attempt case
Manipuri rights activist Irom Sharmila was on Wednesday acquitted by a Delhi court in a 2006 case of attempt to suicide when she was undertaking a fast until death at Jantar Mantar in India’s capital New Delhi .
Metropolitan magistrate Harvinder Singh let off 42-year-old Sharmila, who is on a fast for the past 16 years in north-east Manipur state demanding repeal of AFSPA. She was put on trial on March 4, 2013, for allegedly trying to commit suicide while undertaking fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar on October 4, 2006.
She told the court on Tuesday that she was ready to end her fast if the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which was enacted by the central government in 1958 to bring ‘disturbed’ areas under control, was repealed.
The Act has often faced criticism from human rights groups as it gave sweeping powers and immunity to the army in conflict-ridden areas.
She also expressed her desire to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss the issue.
Sharmila, who is fed through a nasal tube, was put on trial after she refused to plead guilty to the charge of attempting to commit suicide (section 309 of IPC).
During final arguments on Tuesday, the prosecutor had contended that the offence of trying to commit suicide was clearly made out against Sharmila.
During the hearing, the activist had said she loved her life and was using her fast as a weapon to achieve her goal of getting AFSPA repealed as it would have “more impact” and added that this was “not a crime”.
“Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation, had resorted to fasts while making certain demands,” she said while justifying her fast.
“Since there is no meaning of true democracy in the country, human rights activists should join hands. The matter should be brought to the attention of the Human Rights Council of the United Nations,” she said.
She had earlier told the court that she was very much eager to eat if she got the assurance that the “draconian” law will be revoked.
Widespread discrimination is being done against the people from northeast, she had alleged, adding she never intended to commit suicide and the long fast was just a protest against AFSPA.
Known as the ‘Iron Lady’, Sharmila had earlier told the court that her protest was non-violent.