Guwahati, April 12: Doctors at Gauhati Medical College and Hospital have refused to abide by the Kamrup (metro) administration’s directive to forcibly feed the fasting wives of Ulfa militants, lest it lead to health complications rather than do them any good.
“Force-feeding is possible only when a patient shows a certain degree of willingness to take food. We cannot do it with these women because they are determined not to consume solid food. They have reacted aggressively whenever we have tried to advise them to end their fast. Use of force could lead to serious medical complications,” Dr M.M. Deka, principal and chief superintendent of the hospital, told The Telegraph.
Wives of six of the Ulfa militants who went missing from Bhutan during the December 2003 flushout operation by the royal army have been fasting since March 21 to pressure the government into revealing the whereabouts of their husbands. The women are also demanding resumption of the peace process with Ulfa. All six women were arrested in the wee hours of March 30 and shifted to the GMCH a day later.
Admitting that the condition of the fasting women was deteriorating rapidly, Deka said the impact of starvation on their bodies was there for all to see. The GMCH has had to procure intra-parenteral fluid from Calcutta to keep the women alive. A single bottle costs Rs 2,300.
Irom Sharmila from Manipur, who has been on hungerstrike since November 2000, is being kept alive on liquids inserted through a nose pipe. Her campaign is against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, which security forces engaged in counter-insurgency operations have allegedly been using as a licence to harass, maim and kill civilians.
Kamrup deputy commissioner Avinash Joshi said the decision to ask doctors to forcibly feed the wives of missing Ulfa militants was taken by the home department. “Under the law, no citizen of India can be allowed to end his/her life. The fast-unto-death by these women is seen as an attempt to commit suicide.”
Deka said the GMCH had requested the district administration to apprise it of the legal implications of force-feeding. “If force feeding becomes inevitable, doctors have to know the legal aspects of it,” he added.
As the debate continued over how to make the women end their fast, the Tarun Gogoi government filed an affidavit in Gauhati High Court, stating that the Indian and Bhutanese armies transferred custody of 198 Ulfa members, 69 from the National Democratic Front of Nagaland and 32 of their children to Assam between December 20, 2003, and February 21, 2004.
The affidavit was filed by S.K. Roy, joint secretary of the political (A) department, in a pending litigation pertaining to the whereabouts of missing Ulfa and NDFB members.
Justice A.H. Saikia and Justice Hrishikesh Roy conducted the hearing. The court had also asked Delhi to file an affidavit, but the latter sought more time to do so. The final hearing is slated for May 2.