Kolkata, Aug 29 IANS | 4 months ago

Social activist Medha Patkar Friday accused the government of "brutally" dealing with Manipuri activist Irom Sharmila Chanu and questioned the legal provision of treating a fasting individual as one attempting to commit suicide.

"It is absolutely a wrong law to treat fasting as equivalent to committing suicide under Section 309 of the IPC (Indian Penal Code)," Patkar told media persons on the sidelines of the Energy and Environment Conclave organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce and Industry here.

The anti-Narmada dam protestor, who has resorted to hunger strikes often in support of her demands, said the legal provision was applied in her case also on various occasions.

"That was done in my case also...not once but many times and every time we argued (my advocate or myself)... I got unconditional release," she said.

She also criticised the government for releasing Sharmila without any dialogue.

Patkar said: "After so many years without having any dialogue... to release her like this is also criminal... because she also would know that she can't fast, she would only die. So the result would be zero in every sense of the term."

"So, I think the state is dealing with her as brutally as the patriarchal society is dealing with Indian women... as brutally as the military is dealing with the northeast population."

The "Iron Lady", as Sharmila is known in Manipur, is on fast since Nov 4, 2000, while seeking repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), 1958, following the killing of 10 people allegedly by the paramilitary Assam Rifles at Malom Nov 2, 2000.

The 42-year-old human rights activist was released last week, a day after a district sessions court asked the Manipur government to free her from the makeshift jail set up in a hospital since November 2000.

However, Sharmila was re-arrested only after two days on charges of attempt to commit suicide, after she refused to undergo medical check-up or be force-fed following her release.

She was charged under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (attempt to commit suicide) that provides for a year's custody at a stretch.

Sharmila, who has been released and arrested again after every 364 days, is force-fed thrice a day.

The AFSPA is in force in whole or in parts of Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland, as also in Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh and in Jammu and Kashmir.

(Posted on 29-08-2014)

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