Irom Sharmila refuses to plead guilty to suicide attempt charge

Last Updated: Mon, Mar 04, 2013 08:34 hrs

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Monday framed charges against Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on fast for about 12 years demanding repeal of controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), for allegedly attempting to commit suicide during her 'fast until death' here in 2006.

Metropolitan Magistrate (MM) Akash Jain framed charges against 40-year-old Chanu under section 309 (attempting to commit suicide) of the IPC after she refused to plead guilty, saying that her's was a non-violent protest.

Putting her on trial, the court has now listed the matter for May 22 for recording of prosecution evidence in the case relating to her fast until death which started on October 4, 2006 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi demanding revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Amid protest outside the court premises, Chanu appeared before the judge and said, "I do not want to commit suicide. Mine is only a non-violent protest. It is my demand to live as a human being."

She also told the court, "I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace".

The magistrate, however, told her that she has been accused of attempting to commit suicide and prima facie the charge is there against her.

On being asked by the court "Do you plead guilty?" Chanu said no and claimed trial.

"I respect you but the law of the land does not permit you to take your life," the judge said, asking her counsel to make her understand the process.

Even after discussions with her counsel,  Chanu said, "If AFSPA will be repealed by the government then only I will take food and will throw the food pipe" through which she is fed.

The court, however, told her, "This is a political process. Here I am concerned with this case only."

Chanu had launched her fast unto death in 2000 after 10 civilians were killed by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom area near Imphal airport.

She is now in judicial custody and is being fed through her nose.

Ms Chanu was flown to New Delhi from Manipur on Sunday evening for the court proceedings.

Her lawyer told the court that her client has been protesting for the last 12 years in the most non-violent way like Mahatma Gandhi.

The lawyer said she is fasting for the people of Manipur as they are being "neglected" by the government.

Citing her medical condition, the lawyer requested the judge that she should not be asked to appear in court again and again.

The lawyer also said that she has already undergone the one year sentence which is the maximum sentence for the offence under section 309 of the IPC under which she has been charged.

She had earlier said she was confident that the government will listen to her and concede to her demand to revoke AFSPA.

"I am not committing suicide. This is my way of protest. I am protesting by non-violent means," she said after being brought to the capital on Sunday evening.

"If we keep fighting, the law will be repealed. Our voices will be heard.

"...Why is the government afraid of Army? Why is it appeasing the Army? Why can't it take a decision for the good of the people," she said.

Sharmila had launched her fast unto death in 2000 after 10 civilians were killed by Assam Rifles personnel at Malom area near Imphal airport.

She is now in judicial custody and is being fed through her nose.

The AFSPA that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces when they fight separatist insurgents or leftist radicals, has long been under criticism for their misuse.

Irom Sharmila supporters protest outside Delhi court

Demanding revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, (AFSPA) over 30 supporters of Manipur's "Iron Lady" Irom Sharmila Chanu gathered outside Patiala House Court on Monday morning and raised slogans in support of her campaign.

Raising slogans "we want justice" Bhavan Meiti, a journalist from Manipur said: "We demand the repeal of the draconian AFSPA which violates the human rights of people in the name of curbing the insurgency. We are with her (Irom Sharmila) the 'Iron Lady' of Manipur."

"The army often misuses the power given to it by the government. The demand to revoke AFSPA is not the demand by the people or by few activists, but even the committee appointed by the central government has recommended it," Meiti said.

Meanwhile, another protester Djorgi, a student from northeast said that Irom Sharmila is not just an activist fighting for a cause in the northeast, but a symbol of "women power".

"She is not a terrorist. Nobody has been allowed to meet her and she is not allowed to meet anybody. The way she is being confined for such a long time is violation of human rights," Alok Singh, from Krantikari Yuva Sanghatan, said.

People took to Twitter to voice their concerns on the case. Here are some tweets:

SUHEL SETH ‏@suhelseth

It is disgusting that someone like Irom Sharmila should be charged with attempt to commit suicide while the Raja Bhaiyyas go free!

shammy baweja ‏@shammybaweja

What if Mahatma Gandhi had not gone on a fast unto death #IromSharmila

AristocRat Miller ‏@YearOfRat

What Irom Sharmila's case teaches you is that peaceful protests are pointless. Unless a few trains are blocked, the govt does not listen.

shammy baweja ‏@shammybaweja

Can the State plz respond to the issue Irom Sharmila has fasted for for a decade. She's given up her life so others can live with dignity

AristocRat Miller ‏@YearOfRat

Irom Sharmila being tried for attempted suicide, for a fast unto death. In the land of Gandhiji, irony will now be known as iromy.

Mohit Advani ‏@AdvaniMohit

what indian government is doing with irom sharmila is outright cheap and disgusting

Uunng Lee ‏@MeetUunngLee

@coolfunnytshirt That's why the armed force act is imposed, to make the protestor like Irom Sharmila, a gulity though forcefully!

Sumit Nagpal ‏@Sumit_Nagpal

I stand as an ashamed student of Indian law and a watcher of Indian Judiciary. North East needs priority not such treatment. #IromSharmila

shammy baweja ‏@shammybaweja

Is Anna Hazare next ? He fasted thrice #IromSharmila

Sumit Nagpal ‏@Sumit_Nagpal

My faith in the Indian Judiciary suffered a jolt as Irom Sharmila is being charged with attempt to commit suicide. This is no justice!

Followed by Sucheta Dalal

Jainendra Nahata ‏@JainendraNahata

Shame on what's happening with #IromSharmila. Does it prove that non-violent peaceful protests don't work in India anymore??

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