Irom Sharmila is free. But, for how long?

Sharmila said she would continue with her hunger strike.


Sanskrita Bharadwaj | August 20, 2014

Manipur activist Irom Chanu Sharmila has led a long battle against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives sweeping powers to the army. But what has she truly achieved?

On August 20, a Manipur court ordered her release (from the Imphal hospital where she was being force fed for years), on the ground that her “attempt to commit suicide”, a criminal offence under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), “is not strongly established”.

Will the court then be able to make her eat this time? Apparently, no. Soon after the court order, a teary-eyed Sharmila said she was crying because she was emotional but her stand remained the same and that she would continue with her hunger strike.

What next?

The activist, force-fed with a tube in her nose for 13 years and nine months now, would most likely be arrested again, and continued to be force fed.

Incidentally, she is now fighting against two draconian laws. Although, ‘attempt to suicide’ was decriminalised in England in 1961, India has clung to the colonial legacy.

Sharmila began her fast after 10 civilians were shot dead by Assam Rifles personnel in insurgency-hit Manipur’s capital Imphal. This, however, is not the first time she has been released. She has been picked up on the same charge again and again. What remains to be seen is how the court would try to implement its order. Or, will it still be an exercise in routine.

Where does this leave her? Does she continue her battle and remain the iconic figure that social media and the innumerable stories written about her portray her as, or should she start eating?



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