Is Wanting to be Heard an Attempt to Commit Suicide?

Throughout her struggle, Irom Sharmila has refused to plead guilty to the charge of “attempt to suicide”, remaining committed to repeal of AFSPA. She says that her fast is only a peaceful political protest, not a violent, personal act of trying to kill herself. It is evident that the provisions of the law seem extremely inadequate to deal with her condition and put up any feasible defense against her position.

She remains confined to a bed in the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital of Imphal and has spent 15 years trying to convince a deaf Government. Her selfless struggle is exemplary, and none can deny that her confinement has brought to the fore the limitations of the law of the land. Section 309 remains criminalized, and has been unjustly applied to a crusader; it remains an offence under the Indian Penal Code.

The Manipur government believes that it is under some moral obligation to keep Irom Sharmila alive even if it means that she has to remain confined to a hospital bed with a tube in her nose for the rest of her life, and be cut off from any kind of social existence.

Reactions on Sharmila’s case and the Continuing Drama
As a response to the latest round of Sharmila’s release-arrest-release cycle, Meenakshi Ganguly, the South Asia director of Human Rights Watch said the State has a responsibility to protect her life”. “But it would be much better to engage with her, try and address her demands, instead of arresting her. Let us be clear. Sharmila is not attempting suicide. She is asking for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. And this is not a particularly extraordinary demand. Many, both in Jammu and Kashmir and in the Northeast, where this law is in force, have sought its repeal. Several government commissions, human rights groups, activists, judicial experts, United Nations special mandate holders, have all said that AFSPA [Armed Forces Special Powers Act] is a highly abusive law and should be repealed, replaced with one that respects rights.”
There have been two occasions when courts in Manipur ruled that Sharmila was just trying to get her voice heard. The Chief Judicial Magistrate in an order had said: “The accused person [Irom Sharmila] is not trying to kill or destroy herself, but to suffer herself of all deprivations so that her voice or demands are heeded, listened and fulfilled”.
In August 2014, the Imphal Sessions Court had passed a similar order. At that time, Sharmila had been released, during which she addressed a press conference for the first time in her life of protest. She spoke of “living, swallowing her tongue all these years, so that violence could end”.
But the cyclical farce repeated just two days later. Sharmila was taken away as the women who had gathered there resisted, fought back, even pelted stones at the police van. Sharmila, herself shouted and screamed but was lifted and taken away in the melee. A fresh FIR was filed and once again Section 309 was used. A government doctor who had examined her over the two days she was free had told journalists that “she [Sharmila] was very dehydrated,” perhaps prompting concerns over her health, and leading to her subsequent arrest.
Even a small opportunity for talks of some sort or some form of engagement with the protestor had been lost. When journalists met Manipur’s deputy chief minister Gaikhangam Gangmei later in the day, he said: “What can we do, we can’t let her die. This way she lives”. A dialogue, a conversation, a memorandum, a plea from the Cabinet, a political engagement, none of these ideas seemed to be on the minister’s mind.
In 2014, Amnesty International also demanded that the Indian Government
release Irom Sharmila „immediately and unconditionally‟.

Politically Motivated Hunger Strike vs Attempt to Commit Suicide
In 1975 and 1991, the World Medical Association, while establishing guidelines for doctors involved in hunger strikes, made a distinction between the mentally or psychologically impaired individual who chose a voluntary fast, and the hunger striker who chose this form of protest for a political goal. This enabled them to label the action of the former as a suicide. In a paper "Medical and Ethical Aspects of Hunger Strikes in Custody and the Issue of Torture", the physician Hernan Reyes said: “The clear-cut case of a politically motivated hunger striker is different. The striker does not want to die: on the contrary, he wants to „live better‟, by obtaining something for himself, his group or his country. If necessary, he is willing to sacrifice his life for his cause, but the aim is certainly not suicide.”
In the case of Irom Sharmila, the thin dividing line between attempt to suicide and hunger strike as a form of political protest is getting blurred. The force-feeding which had been given legitimacy as an act of life-saving, has in the past 16 years snatched her freedom and her well-being. She is being formally kept alive to put it on record that the state does not let her die. Maybe Sharmila dead would pose a greater danger for the State than Sharmila alive.

“I won’t eat anything till I achieve my aim,” said Sharmila when she left the court of the chief judicial magistrate. The veteran Anna Hazare had written to Sharmila urging her to join his protest in the national capital of Delhi, when he had begun his crusade for the Jan Lokpal Bill. Sharmila had replied from her hospital bed: “I am unlucky because I cannot come to New Delhi. I am not a free Indian.”

Sharmila’s Stand Vindicated
The Supreme Court, on 10 August, 2015 said the fact that compensation has been paid to the next of kin of victims of security forces' encounter killings in Manipur "amply indicate" that such encounters were fake and the question would be "were they valid”. It asked the Manipur government to appraise the court of the steps taken after compensations were paid to kith and kin of deceased persons. "If you think it was a valid encounter, then why are you paying compensation? Have you challenged any of the orders?" the social justice bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and UU Lalit said.
The court had been told by the amicus curiae that the State and the Central Governments and NHRCG had provided a list of 62 killings that were sought to be passed-off as those of militants by security forces. The court asked Manipur government to file its reply to a petition by one Suresh Singh seeking repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
Earlier, the court had asked the Centre, Manipur government and NHRC to submit a comprehensive report on alleged fake encounter cases in the state, including 62 such cases where FIRs have not even been lodged. Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for Extra Judicial Execution Victims' Families Association, had said "in all these 62 cases, not a single FIR has been lodged against any of the accused."


Statement of Irom Sharmila in Court,6 October , 2015
Manipuri Civil Rights activist Irom Sharmila told a Delhi court on 6 October 2015, after 15 long years of hunger strike, that the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act should be scrapped as it has caused “immense hardship” to the people of the State and thousands of innocent persons have been killed over the years.
In her statement which was recorded before a Delhi Court, in a case in which she faces trial for allegedly trying to commit suicide while undertaking fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar in 2006, Ms. Sharmila said that the police had violated her fundamental rights and had implicated her in a false case. Ms. Sharmila broke down in the Court while recording her statement.
She told the Metropolitan Magistrate Mr. Akash Jain that she had sat on a fast at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on October 4, 2006, but had been forcibly removed by the police.
“It is correct that I had sat on fast at Jantar Mantar on October 4, 2006 but I have been fasting since 2000 and same has not affected my health and I have never refused medical checkup...,” she told the Court.
“I have been demanding that AFSPA be repealed or lifted from Manipur as the same has caused immense hardship to the common man of Manipur. Thousands of innocent people have been killed; hundreds of rapes have taken place on Manipur’s women. No action has been taken under the garb of AFSPA,” she said.
She also said in the court that she has been continuing her struggle against AFSPA and as the issue was getting worldwide attention, the police had violated her fundamental rights and had forcibly removed her from Jantar Mantar during her fast in 2006.
The court concluded the recording of Ms. Sharmila’s statement, during which she said that she wanted to examine witnesses in her defense. The court had fixed the matter for the very next day, when Ms. Sharmila’s lawyer filed a list of defense witness. The court had on June 6, 2015 concluded recording of prosecution evidence and had fixed the case for recording of Ms. Sharmila’s statement under section 313 of CrPC.
Ms. Sharmila had earlier told the court that she was very much eager to eat if she got the assurance that the “draconian” act would be revoked.

Widespread discrimination was being done with the people from Northeast, she had alleged, adding she never intended to commit suicide and it was just a protest against AFSPA. The court had on March 4, 2013, put her on trial after she had refused to plead guilty to the charge of attempting to commit suicide (section 309 of IPC).
Well known as the „Iron Lady‟, Ms. Irom Sharmila had earlier told the court that her protest was non-violent.

○○ शहरों के उपनाम ○○


भगवान का निवास स्थानपरयाग


पांच नदियों की भूमिपजाब


सात टापुओं का नगरमबई


बनकरों का शहरपानीपत


अतरिक्ष का शहरबगलुरू


डायमंड हार्बरकोलकाता


इलेक्ट्रॉनिक नगरबगलुरू


तयोहारों का नगरमदुरै


सवर्ण मंदिर का शहरअमृतसर


महलों का शहरकोलकाता


नवाबों का शहरलखनऊ


इस्पात नगरीजमशेदपुर


पर्वतों की रानीमसूरी


रलियों का नगरनई दिल्ली


भारत का प्रवेश द्वारमबई


पर्व का वेनिसकोच्चि


भारत का पिट्सबर्गजमशेदपुर


भारत का मैनचेस्टरअहमदाबाद


मसालों का बगीचाकरल


गलाबी नगरजयपुर


कवीन ऑफ डेकन- पुणे


भारत का हॉलीवुडमबई


झीलों का नगरशरीनगर


फलोद्यानों का स्वर्गसिक्किम


पहाड़ी की मल्लिकानतरहाट


भारत का डेट्राइटपीथमपुर


पर्व का पेरिसजयपुर


सॉल्ट सिटीगजरात


सोया प्रदेशमध्य प्रदेश


मलय का देशकर्नाटक


दक्षिण भारत की गंगाकावेरी


काली नदीशारदा


बलू माउंटेननीलगिरी पहाड़ियां


एशिया के अंडों की टोकरीआध्र प्रदेश


राजस्थान का हृदयअजमेर


सरमा नगरीबरेली


खशबुओं का शहरकन्नौज


काशी की बहनगाजीपुर


लीची नगरदहरादून


राजस्थान का शिमलामाउंट आबू


कर्नाटक का रत्नमसूर


अरब सागर की रानीकोच्चि


भारत का स्विट्जरलैंडकश्मीर


पर्व का स्कॉटलैंडमघालय


उत्तर भारत का मैनचेस्टरकानपुर


मदिरों और घाटों का नगरवाराणसी


धान का डलियाछत्तीसगढ़


भारत का पेरिसजयपुर


मघों का घरमघालय


बगीचों का शहरकपूरथला


पथ्वी का स्वर्गशरीनगर


पहाड़ों की नगरीडगरपुर


भारत का उद्यानबगलुरू


भारत का बोस्टनअहमदाबाद


गोल्डन सिटीअमृतसर


सती वस्त्रों की राजधानीमबई


पवित्र नदीगगा


बिहार का शोककोसी


वद्ध गंगागोदावरी


फाउंटेन और माउंटेन शहरउदयपुर


सिल्क सिटीभागलपुर

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