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Sharmila held again for ‘fasting’

Imphal, Aug. 22: Human rights crusader Irom Chanu Sharmila was taken into police custody this morning, 40 hours after she was freed from jail on Wednesday following a court order.

She was produced before a duty magistrate tonight and remanded in judicial custody for 15 days.

Sharmila was booked under the charge of attempting suicide. After arresting Sharmila at 10.30am, the police took her to her old room at the security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital here, where she was immediately given medical care.

The superintendent of the hospital, W. Gopimohon Singh, told The Telegraph that she was physically weak, but her “vitals are stable”.

He said Sharmila was being given intravenous drips as she had refused nose feeding.

“We arrested her under Section 309 of the IPC. She has been kept at the security ward of hospital and is under observation,” said additional director-general of police Santosh Macherla,

Sessions judge, Manipur East, A. Guneshwar Sharma, while ordering her release on Tuesday, had ruled that the prosecution could not prove that Sharmila had attempted suicide under Section 309 of the IPC.

Sharmila’s lawyer Khaidem Mani said arresting her on the same charge did not amount to contempt of court because the charge was for a new alleged offence.

Deputy chief minister and home minister Gaikhangam said the police had taken measures for “her (Sharmila’s) safety”.The sessions judge, in his order on Tuesday, had directed the government to take care of Sharmila’s health, which is possibly what the state government could have based its order for the re-arrest on.

After her release, Sharmila had not gone to her house in Imphal East but had continued to fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital.

She refused to take even water.

As a result, her health deteriorated and the government was worried that she would die.

Being a free citizen, neither the police nor any medical person could force her to eat or accept nose feeding.

Once Sharmila is under police custody, doctors can force-feed her.

Rights activists feel that Sharmila’s visit to the women’s market here yesterday to campaign for her cause of repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in Manipur, for which she has been on fast since November 5, 2000, may have worried the government that it might trigger a mass movement.

Ksh Onil, a rights activist, said after her release Sharmila continued to fast outside the hospital and refused to take food and water, so her health deteriorated.

“The police arrested her to force-feed her and out of fear of mass uprising after her campaign at the women’s market in the city.”

The police came this morning to arrest her after Sharmila refused medical care by doctors sent by the government last night and early this morning.

A scuffle ensued between the police and Sharmila’s supporters for about 10 minutes. Sharmila also strongly resisted the arrest, leading to bleeding on the big toe of her right leg. Doctors treated her for the injury.

Eyewitnesses said there were about 20 supporters with Sharmila when the police arrived this morning.

“The police outnumbered us so they forcibly took her away. They did not show any respect for Sharmila. They seized her physically, put her in a police vehicle and took her away,” Th. Ramani Devi, a supporter, said.

S. Momon, a leader of Sharmila Kanba Lup, a women’s organisation supporting Sharmila’s struggle, condemned the police action. “The arrest was arbitrary. They did not give Sharmila or those present the reason for her arrest or her offence. The police action is condemnable,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert, Manipur, said.


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