[QODLink]
Central & South Asia

India's 'Iron Lady' released after 14 years

Irom Sharmila says she will continue her hunger strike over alleged atrocities by the Indian army in Manipur state.

Last updated: 20 Aug 2014 14:58
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Sharmila is seeking the repeal of a counter-rebellion law that gives sweeping powers to the army [AFP]

An Indian human rights activist who has been on hunger strike for the last 14 years in protest against alleged army atrocities has been released from a prison hospital in Manipur where doctors had force fed her to keep her alive.

The freeing of Irom Sharmila comes after a trial judge found no evidence to support charges filed in 2000 by prosecutors in the northeastern state that she was trying to commit suicide by refusing food.

"It is hard for me to believe that I am free now. My battle against injustice and crimes committed by the army in Manipur will continue," Sharmila told the Reuters news agency on Wednesday.

It is hard for me to believe that I am free now. My battle against injustice and crimes committed by the army in Manipur will continue.

Irom Sharmila

The release of Sharmila, who said she would continue her hunger strike, was confirmed by her lawyer Babloo Loitongbam.

The 42-year-old, known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur," began her fast in November 2000 after 10 people were killed in a shooting at a bus stop near her home in Manipur, a remote state that borders Myanmar.

Activists blamed the killings - including two children - on the Indian army. Police registered a case but no arrests were made.

Despite calls from judicial inquiries and human rights groups, the federal government has kept in force an anti-terrorism law that gives soldiers virtual immunity from prosecution in regions hit by rebellion.

Acting due to the failure to bring those responsible to justice, Sharmila started her hunger strike, vowing only to end it when the law was repealed.

In response to Sharmila's protest and growing popularity, state prosecutors charged her in 2000 with attempting suicide - a punishable offence in Indian law which also outlaws assisted suicide.

Sharmila was held in a state hospital and force-fed by tubes several times a day.


RELATED: In Pictures: Manipur's 'custodial killings'


Controversial law

Sharmila's release is expected to rekindle debate over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which is in force in parts of northeastern India and India-administered Kashmir that have been affected by years of armed rebellion.

The law gives security forces powers to search and enter property and shoot on sight.

The military says the law is needed to tackle rebels and that it investigates allegations of abuse made against soldiers.

"There has been no instruction from the state government to challenge Sharmila's release order," S Indira Devi, a government appointed lawyer involved in the case, told Reuters.

"She can walk out of the hospital as a free citizen and maybe even continue her hunger strike."

467

Source:
Agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
An innovative rehabilitation programme offers Danish fighters in Syria an escape route and help without prosecution.
Street tension between radical Muslims and Holland's hard right rises, as Islamic State anxiety grows.
Take an immersive look at the challenges facing the war-torn country as US troops begin their withdrawal.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Featured
About 500,000 participated around the globe in the Peoples Climate March, and Al Jazeera spoke to some in New York.
Separatist movements in Spain, Belgium and Italy may face headwinds following Scotland's decision to stay in the UK.
A fishing trawler carrying 500 migrants across the Mediterranean was rammed by another boat, causing hundreds to drown.
Anti-immigration Sweden Democrats party - with roots in the neo-Nazi movement - recently won 12.9 percent of the vote.
Palestinian doctor who lost three daughters in previous Gaza war is fighting to bring 100 wounded kids to Canada.