by Pallavi Polanki Mar 4, 2013, Firstpost
“The government will listen. It depends on the movement of the people because we are a democracy. What I want is peace and justice, not the administration of a government that uses violence as a means for their governance,” said a frail and emotional Irom Sharmila, addressing the media outside a Delhi Court, which has charged her with attempt to commit suicide. (Read full report here)
Sharmila continues to persevere with her more than 12-year long struggle for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA). On a protest fast since 2000, she is force fed via tube at a government hospital in Imphal, Manipur, where she remains in custody and denied free access to her family, friends and supporters.
Sharmila has been charged by the Delhi court in a 2006 case that was booked against her by the Delhi Police after she declared a fast unto death from Jantar Mantar. Described as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Sharmila pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempt to commit suicide before the Delhi Court. The next date of hearing has been fixed for May 22.
On request by her lawyers, Sharmila was permitted by the Delhi Court to a five-minute interaction with the press.
Responding to question regarding the government’s stand that repeal of the AFSPA depended on the Army’s assessment of the ground realities, Sharmila said, “The government and the Army are colluding to cheat the people. The government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The government should control the Army also.”
On whether she had requested the government to permit her family and supporters free access to her, she said, “They are so scared to give me my fundamental rights. I am also a social being. I am innocent woman who loves civilization.”
When asked whether she had faith in the legal system and the central government, she said, “I have in faith in God. God will also guide the wrong-doers. I will remind them that of their real responsibility as a leaders of a society.”
Reacting to a question on the setting up of the three-member commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Hegde, which has begun hearing cases of alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces, in Manipur, Sharmila said, “The government will remain adamant for the time being. The Jeevan Reddy committee has already recommended the repeal of this draconian law.”
Making a final statement, Sharmila said, “I’m following the non-violent principle of the Father of Nation. The government should not discriminate. As a leadership, they should behave unbiasedly…I have in faith in God. God will also guide the wrong-doers. I will remind them that of their real responsibility as a leaders of a society.”
The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is representing Sharmila in Delhi. Speaking to the press, Svetlana, one of her counsels, said, “Now the case will move into the trial stage. If she is unable to come because of her health conditions, we will move an application for exempting her from being present in court. We haven’t filed any application to move the trial to Manipur.”
Outside the Delhi Court, students and supporters staged a protest, shouting slogans seeking the repealing of the law.
Asked what their message to Sharmila was, former president of the Manipur Students Association Delhi, Seram Rojesh said, “We are here to give solidarity to her. The police denied us permission to meet her. In this struggle, we want to show her that she is not alone. The world is with her. She has done nothing wrong. She is fasting for the right to a dignified life. But she has been charged with 309 of IPC. We are protesting the very idea of charging her.” Rojesh is also the coordinator of the Save Democracy, Repeal AFPSA Campaign.
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