Human rights activist Irom Sharmila today completes 15 years of her protest against the death of 10 Manipuris who were shot dead by the Assam Rifles in Imphal.
The 42-year-old Irom has been on a hunger strike since November 2000, demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
“Irom Sharmila’s 15 year hunger strike is a symbol of a brave struggle against injustice. The AFSPA has caused widespread human rights violations like enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and sexual violence,” said Henri Tiphagne, Chairperson of FORUM-ASIA. In particular, “AFSPA has been used to justify killings on mere suspicion as well as granted virtual immunity through a clause prohibiting legal proceedings without sanction from the federal government, which is virtually never granted.”
Irom was arrested and released from jail several times under Section 309 for attempted suicide. She rejected allegations that she was trying to commit suicide, but maintains that she is on hunger strike demanding repeal of AFSPA.
“Sharmila has never been convicted of charges of attempted suicide. Sharmila has repeatedly rejected the allegation that she is trying to commit suicide and maintains that she is on hunger strike demanding the repeal of AFSPA,” said Babloo Loitongbam, Director of Human Rights Alert Manipur.
Despite repeated calls to withdraw the AFSPA from UN experts as well as national and international groups, the Act continues to be enforced.