Guwahati, Oct. 30: The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has asked the Manipur government to immediately remove the “arbitrary” restrictions imposed on visiting Irom Sharmila.
Taking suo motu cognisance of the arbitrary restrictions, the rights panel, in a press release issued this afternoon, said the restrictions were in breach of India’s obligations under international human rights standards and principles and a grave violation of human rights.
The commission in its notice to the Manipur chief secretary said Sharmila must be permitted to receive visitors under the regime that governs all persons in judicial custody. It has also asked the chief secretary to report by December 6, 2013, on the steps taken in response to this recommendation.
Sharmila has been on a fast for over 12 years demanding the repeal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in her home state.
Two members of the commission, accompanied by senior officials, met Sharmila on October 23 during its visit to the state. They found her frail but alert and she did not complain of any physical ill treatment. However, she repeatedly said she was rarely allowed visitors, whereas all others in the custody of the state government routinely received visits from family and friends.
The state government officials could not give any satisfactory reply to the commission on this egregious exception made in her case, but informed the representatives that the permission to meet her must be issued by either the chief minister or the deputy chief minister.
The commission observed that if the Manipur government could deny permission to its Special Rapporteur, a retired director-general of police and to Special Rapporteurs of the UN, to visit 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 it added.
The commission said Sharmila is a person of concern to it on three counts. She is, firstly, a person in custody, on the terms of whose imprisonment the commission has received some complaints.
Secondly, it has been represented to the commission, and to the UN Special Rapporteurs that the terms of her imprisonment have deliberately been made harsh because she is a human rights defender.
Finally, in so far as she is held in conditions that are onerous because of her peaceful opposition toa law whose repeal she seeks, she is a prisoner of conscience.