Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Indian hunger striker on suicide charge - Update

A court in India has charged Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been fasting for 12 years against a draconian law in the north-eastern state of Manipur, with attempting to commit suicide. The charge relates to a protest by Ms Chanu, 40, in Delhi in 2006. She has pleaded not guilty to the charge. She said she was holding a "non-violent" protest.

She is currently held in a Manipur jail and has been force-fed through a pipe in her nose since November 2000. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afspa), against which Ms Chanu is protesting, gives sweeping powers to the armed forces when they fight separatist insurgents or leftist radicals - powers which critics say are often misused.

Ms Chanu was flown in to Delhi on Sunday and produced in the Patiala House court on Monday morning. "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 told  the judge. "I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace," she added. In response, the judge said: "I respect you but the law of the land does not permit you to take your life."

Ms Chanu began her fast 12 years ago after 10 civilians were killed by Indian soldiers in Manipur. In 2006, she brought her protest to Delhi and the charge brought against her on Monday is linked to that fast. Manipur has a population of about 2.5 million people and a huge force of army, paramilitary and state police. They have been fighting at least 12 insurgent groups since 1980.


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