Rights activist from Manipur Irom Sharmila, who has been on a fast for over 13 years to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), told a Delhi court on Wednesday that she was eager to eat if she was given the assurance that the “draconian” Act would be revoked.
Sharmila was charged for attempt to suicide in 2006 when she sat on a fast-unto-death at Jantar Mantar. Appearing before the court of Metropolitan Magistrate Akash Jain in pursuance of a production warrant against her, she spoke of “racism and wide scale discrimination against people from the Northeast”.
The activist, who has been kept alive through artificial feed, told the court that she wished to lead a “settled life” and that it should be acknowledged that she is a “human being and has a right according to the Constitution to lead a normal life”.
“There are scholars and experts, who have forced the revoking of TADA (Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act) and POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002). But no has come forward against the more severe AFSPA, which is against the principle of non-violence,” she said.
On Wednesday, witnesses Satish Kaushik — SHO (Connaught Place) in 2006 — and Subhash Chander — the investigating officer then — were examined.
During the hearing, counsel for Sharmila U K Ohri asked Kaushik whether there was any limit to the dharnas permitted on Parliament Street and if certain areas had been earmarked for them. The Magistrate however dismissed this saying the question was “irrelevant”.
During cross-examination, Kaushik was asked how he knew that Sharmila’s protest was a fast unto death? Kaushik said he got information on the basis of the sloganeering and the posters.
Kaushik told the court that he had information regarding a protest by Sharmila at Jantar Mantar on October 4, 2006. He told court that he also knew that the activist was not in good health. However, he told court that he did not remember seeing the medical documents before taking her to the hospital from the venue.
During the proceedings, the court offered Sharmila exemption from physical appearance due to her health conditions. The exemption was offered keeping in mind that bringing her to the capital from Manipur bore a huge cost to the state exchequer. However, she insisted that she would prefer to be present at each hearing.
During the hearing, Sharmila said the democratic rights of the people of the Northeast was being taken away under the garb of AFSPA. The magistrate, however, said the topic was not under his jurisdiction and he had to restrict himself to the case trial.
However, the Magistrate said he would ensure that the matter reached its conclusion at the earliest and fixed the matter for July 17.
At the end of the hearing, the court asked the Manipur personnel accompanying Sharmila if her stay could be extended for another day in Delhi for completion of recording of evidence. However, Assistant Jailor Hemant Kumar told the court that they had no prior sanction and that she needed to be taken back to Manipur today itself.
“To ensure the completion of prosecution evidence on the next date of hearing, notice be issued to all the remaining material witnesses for recording of statements on July 17-July 18, 2014,” the court said and directed police to produce Sharmila in court on those dates.