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Activist charged with suicide attempt

Irom Sharmila has been on 12-year hunger strike

Activist charged with suicide attempt
The court told Irom Sharmila she cannot be allowed to take her own life
Swati Deb, New Delhi

March 4, 2013

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A court in Delhi charged a prominent activist on Monday with attempting to commit suicide.

Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike for the past 12 years to protest against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a controversial anti-insurgency law that gives wide ranging powers to the armed forces.

It empowers the military to use lethal force in dealing with suspects, to arrest without a warrant and to detain people indefinitely and without charge.

Many, including Sharmila, say the law has been misused by the security forces.     

"There is evidence that you want to take your life," a judge told her in court on Monday.

Sharmila rejected the charge, saying, “I love and respect life. I want the right to live as a human being. Mine is a non-violent protest to get the government to meet my demands."

"We respect you but the law of the land does not permit you to take your life," the court replied.

Sharmila began her fast after security forces killed 10 people at a bus stop in the state in November 2000.

Since then she has been in detention at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal, Manipur, where she is force-fed through a nasal feeding tube.

She is released briefly once a year and rearrested.

“The government should listen to the will of the people, not the will of the army. The act must be repealed. I am also a human being, as a human being I have right to happiness and freedom," Sharmila said on her arrival in Delhi on Sunday.

Meanwhile, her supporters staged a protest outside the city court on Monday, which had been sealed off by police.

“The situation in Manipur and the rest of northeast India is frightening. The AFSPA is a draconian law which gives unbridled power to the armed forces to commit excesses against civilians,” said Jacob Martin, one of her supporters.

The Defense Ministry last year opposed diluting the provisions of the law introduced in 1958, saying it is their "vital tool for operations."

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