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08 March, 2008

On this Women’s Day, let us remember Irom Sharmila, human rights defender

Today, International Women’s Day, the national media reported that an Imphal court had ordered the release of legendary Manipuri human rights defender Irom Sharmila. She had been arrested on a charge of attempted suicide.
Sharmila, 37, has been on a fast unto death since November 2000 demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in force in Manipur, which gives the military arbitrary powers. She has been kept alive all these years through forced feeding in jail or in hospitals.
It was a brutal firing by security forces at the Malom bus stand, 15 kilometres from Imphal, on November 2, 2000, resulting in the loss of ten innocent lives that prompted Sharmila to stake her own life in the cause of human rights. She took her mother’s blessings, saying she wants to work for the betterment of humanity, proceeded to the scene of the bloodbath and began her fast.
Friday’s court order does not mean the end of her ordeal. Reporting her release, NDTV 24x7 said, “Sharmila, who has become the face of protests against the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act, was released Friday evening. She will be arrested again on Saturday afternoon. This routine has been followed for years, as under the law a person accused of attempted suicide cannot be detained for more than a year.”
For a detailed account of her heroic struggle, please see Irom Sharmila: ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur by Subhash Gatade at site.
Irom Sharmila’s demand was basically accepted by the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission, which in its report to the Central government recommended that rhe Armed Forces Special Provisions Act be scrapped, and that an amended version of the Unlawful Acts (Prevention) Act of 1967 be used instead. However, the government has been stalling its implementation. See report by Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu dated October 8, 2006.
On this International Women’s Day, let us salute this indefatigable fighter.

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