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Groups want govt stand on army act

- Conglomerate’s demand comes three days after re-arrest of Sharmila

Imphal, Aug. 25: Rights groups supporting Irom Sharmila’s struggle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act wants the Manipur government to “clear its stand” on her demand for repealing the act.

The demand came three days after she was re-arrested by police on the same charge of “attempting to commit suicide” under Section 309 IPC.

“We do not accept the government’s stand that Sharmila has been re-arrested to save her life. We demand a clear stand of the government on Sharmila’s demand for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” S. Momon, convener of Sharmila Kanba Lup, a conglomerate of women’s organisations supporting Sharmila’s struggle, said.

The demand came at a time when the state’s law department is drafting a petition to be filed in Manipur High Court, seeking a revision of the order passed by sessions judge, Manipur East.

Judge A. Guneshwar Sharma on Tuesday ordered the release of Sharmila from jail ruling that the prosecution failed to prove the charge that she was attempting to commit suicide.

“The agitation of Irom Sharmila is a political demand through a lawful means of repealing a valid statue,” the judge said in his order.

After coming out of jail on Wednesday, Sharmila continued her fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital and she was re-arrested 40 hours after her freedom.

Reacting to deputy chief minister Gaikhangam’s statement that Sharmila was arrested to save her life, Momon said if the government honestly wanted to save her life then it should repeal the army act.

The Ibobi Singh government’s known stand on the army act is that the help of the armed forces is required to deal with militancy. There are about 40 militant groups operating in Manipur. While some of them responded to the call for peace talks, major groups have not.

The armed forces also maintain that without the powers of the army act they would not be able to assist the civil administration in maintaining peace.

The Ibobi Singh government, in its proposed review petition, is expected to take the line that Sharmila needs to be in judicial custody to protect her life.

The sessions judge in his order directed the state government to take appropriate measures for Sharmila’s health and safety like nose feeding in case she decides to continue her fast till her demand is met.

The government feels that it would be easier to take measures to protect her health if she was in custody.

Sharmila refused to let two medical teams examine her during her 40-hour freedom during which she continued her hunger strike.