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Centre mulls interim withdrawal of army act

Irom Sharmila leaves after an appearance at the Patiala House Court in New Delhi on Wednesday. (AFP)

Imphal, May 28: The Centre today raised hopes for initiating steps for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur, even if temporarily.

The minister of state in-charge of home, Kiren Rijiju, today assured a delegation of the state unit of the BJP led by president Thounaojam Chaoba Singh that he would take the initiative for withdrawing the act temporarily.

“Rijiju assured us that he would consult the Union home minister Rajnath Singh, officials of the home ministry and legal experts on how the act could be withdrawn from Manipur,” Laimayum Basanta Sharma, general secretary in-charge of media affairs, said over phone from New Delhi.

During the meeting, Rijiju said being elected from Arunachal Pradesh he had full knowledge of the impact of the act, according to Sharma.

Rijiju gave the assurance on a day when Manipur rights crusader Irom Sharmila was appearing before the court of metropolitan magistrate at Patiala House court in connection with a case regarding a hunger strike at the Jantar Mantar in 2006.

Sharmila, 41, today told a Delhi court that she was very much eager to eat if she got the assurance that the “draconian” act will be revoked, adds PTI.        

“I love my life very much and I am very much eager to eat something right here in the court, if I get an assurance that this undemocratic AFSPA will be revoked,” Sharmila said with her eyes full of tears.

Sharmila, who came to the court with her nose tube in place, a day after flying in from Manipur, also told metropolitan magistrate Akash Jain that she never intended to commit suicide and it was just a protest against the army act.

During a meeting with her at Delhi’s Manipur Bhavan yesterday, the Manipur BJP team had assured her to extend support to her demand for repeal of the army act and urge the Centre to consider her demand.

The state BJP leaders are confident that if the act is withdrawn from Manipur temporarily as an experiment on tackling the problem of militancy without the special powers given to the security forces, Sharmila will end her hunger strike.

Sharmila had begun her fast on November 5, 2000, demanding repeal of the act.

Sharma quoted Rijiju as saying he would put up the proposal before Rajnath Singh and discuss the modalities for withdrawing the act.

Though Modi did not say anything on the removal or repeal of the act during his election rally in Imphal in February, the state unit of the BJP in its election manifesto had promised to “withdraw” the “draconian” law.

Sharmila’s wish of meeting the Prime Minister was unlikely to be fulfilled, as Modi was busy with official work, sources in Delhi said.

A team of the JD (U) led by general secretary in-charge of the Northeast, Arunkumar Shrivastava, met Sharmila this morning and promised her of the party’s help in her fight.

The BJP team also met minister of state for information and broadcasting and environment and forests, Prakash Javadekar, today.

Javadekar assured the delegation that he would soon visit Manipur to discuss the issue of improving the condition of Loktak lake. Javadekar is a well-known face in Manipur as he is a frequent visitor for party activities.

Sharma said the minister asked the BJP delegation to fix a date for his visit to Manipur.


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