IMPHAL, August 19: The Amnesty International India has said the court ruling directing the release of ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ Irom Sharmila is a legal and moral victory for the activist.
“This welcome but long overdue judgement recognizes that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is a powerful protest for human rights and a peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression,” said Shailesh Rai, programmes director, Amnesty International India.
“Irom Sharmila should never have been arrested in the first place. All other charges against her of attempted suicide must be dropped and she must be immediately released. Authorities must instead pay attention to the issues this remarkable activist is raising,” it said.
“Irom Sharmila is being detained in the security ward of a hospital in Imphal, where she is force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose. She has never been convicted for attempting to commit suicide.”
Last year, over 18,000 people from across India supported an Amnesty International India campaign calling for the unconditional release of Irom Sharmila, it said while adding that India’s National Human Rights Commission also acknowledged that she was a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ who was being detained solely for the peaceful expression of her beliefs and called for the removal of restrictions imposed on access to her.
Speaking to Amnesty International India in September 2013, Irom Sharmila, inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, said, “My struggle is my message. I love my life very much and want to have the freedom to meet people and struggle for issues close to my heart,” it said.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Organisation Research and Education of Manipur while welcoming the landmark order has also expressed concerned that Sharmila’s continued protest of fast for the repeal of AFSPA will also put her at a heightened risk to her personal safety and life.
“It is astounding that after more than 12 years of being convicted to imprisonment under IPC section 309 (attempt to commit suicide), a judicial opinion has been expressed that there is no evidence that she has attempted to commit suicide! If the judicial opinion has any weight in the long turn, the order has put the tenability of Section 309 in the Indian Penal Code under a cloud.”
It further commended the ‘courageous order passed by a District and Sessions Judge of Manipur.’
The political dimension of Irom Chanu Sharmila’s unique lone protest stance has been thrust into prominence for the first time since she began her fast, the statement said