Name: Irom Sharmila
Reason Behind Bars:
Irom has been on a hunger strike since 2000 to highlight persistent human rights abuses committed by Indian security forces under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). Under Section 4 (A) of the law, security forces involved in counter-insurgency operations in “disturbed areas” are given the authority to arrest, detain and even use lethal force against persons suspected of being a threat to “public order.” Of critical concern is section 6(A) of the law which prohibits courts from holding security officials accountable for their human rights abuses without prior government approval. The law is regularly invoked to forcefully suppress public demonstrations, particularly in insurgency affected areas, including the states of Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur. Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, a committee founded in 2004 by the government of India to review AFSPA, recommended that the law should be amended as it institutionalizes abuse, repression and discrimination.
On 2 November 2000, members of the Assam Rifles, one of India’s oldest paramilitary forces, allegedly shot and killed 10 people at a bus stop in Imphal Valley, Manipur. However, despite accusations that the shooting constituted extrajudicial executions the Indian authorities refused to investigate the incident, concluding that it was within the mandate of AFSPA. In protest of the government’s failure to investigate the incident, Irom decided to indefinitely prolong her traditional Thursday fasts, which she has been carrying out since childhood, to demand the repeal of AFSPA.
On 5 November 2000, Irom was arrested by the Indian police under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code which criminalizes attempts to commit suicide. Section 309 prescribes 1 year in prison to “whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence”. Every year since 2000, Irom has been re- arrested and charged under the law and forced fed in detention.
On 20 August 2014, the District and Sessions Judge of Imphal East released Irom stating that refusing food and water doesn’t constitute attempted suicide. However, despite the court ruling, on 22 August 2014, Irom was forcefully re-arrested by the Superintendent of Police (SP) of Imphal East and taken to Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) to be force fed through her nose. Directly preceding her arrest, Irom was staging a peaceful hunger strike a kilometre away from a government hospital where she has been imprisoned for the past year. The government’s relentless judicial persecution of Irom is based solely on her independent activism and represents a severe breach of her basic civil rights. Irom must be immediately and unconditionally released.
For more information:
Frontline Defenders: Human rights defender Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila re-arrested
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign
Three days after her release, anti-AFSPA activist Irom Sharmila re-arrested from protest site