The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has sent the Manipur government a notice calling the conditions under which Irom Sharmila ,who began 14th year of her protest fast on November 2,is being held as unconstitutional.
The commission,which visited the activist in Imphal last month,has questioned the fact that Sharmila is not allowed to meet any member of the public without the state governments permission.
The restrictions imposed on access to Sharmila must be immediately removed as these are in breach of Indias obligations under international human rights standards and principles,and a grave violation of human rights,says the October 30 notice. The NHRC wants the Manipur Chief Secretary to report to it by December 6 on the steps taken by it in response.
Justice Joseph and I had gone to meet Irom along with some senior officials of the NHRC team. We spent around an hour and a half with her and asked her if she had any complaints. One of the reasons we met her was that the NHRC had received a number of complaints regarding the conditions of her imprisonment. She said she was under no discomfort but her only complaint was that she was not allowed to meet anyone and that she was kept in isolation from her people, NHRC member Satyabrata Pal said.
Pal noted that prisoners are allowed to receive family members and visitors on a slotted day or time in the week. The Joint Home Secretary who accompanied us didnt seem to know why conditions had been imposed on Irom unlike the privileges other prisoners were given. He was only able to confirm that it was not possible to meet her without the permission of the Chief Minister himself and,in his absence,the Deputy Chief Minister.
The NHRC notice states,If the government of Manipur could deny permission to its Special Rapporteur,a retired director general of police,and Special Rapporteurs of the UN to visit Ms Sharmila,it is unlikely that it gives others access to her. It would appear that,while keeping her alive,since her death would create problems for the state government,it is trying to break her spirit through this enforced isolation,for which there is no judicial mandate.
Pal added that Sharmila remained steadfast on continuing her fast till AFSPA was removed from Manipur. We asked her if she would consider calling off her campaign if the law was diluted,but she was very clear that she would not call it off unless AFSPA was removed in its entirety from the state.