‘Government afraid of civil society groups'
Irom Sharmila, whose fast enters its 12th year this Saturday, was produced on Friday in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate of Imphal East on completion of her one-year detention.
The law under which she is detained permits the authority to detain her for one year at one go. As she refused to break her world-record fast she was remanded in judicial custody for 15 days. The period is likely to be extended.
Talking to journalists, Ms. Sharmila expressed disappointment over the denial of permission to the representatives of the Save Sharmila Campaign, coming from Jammu, Delhi and other States, to meet her. It is in sharp contrast to the government policy of allowing some others if it will serve its purpose.
Sharmila said that it appeared that the government was afraid of civil society organisations.
Asked what she would like to tell Prime Minister Manmohan Singh regarding her campaign, Ms. Sharmila said there was no point in telling anything to a person who had decided not to listen to anything sensible. For 11 years, the Prime Minister and others had refused to listen and they were likely to do so again.
Ms. Sharmila had been anguished by the increasing instances of massacring innocent persons long after the gun-toting extremists had fled the scene of bloodshed.
She went on a fast unto death from November 4, 2000 — when 10 innocent persons were killed by troopers of 8 Assam Rifles — demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from the State. Since then, she has refused to break her fast. As she had to be force fed, a room in the J.N. Institute of Medical Sciences was declared a sub-jail. She spends her time reading, writing poems and articles for some newspapers. She has been given the highest national awards by some countries for her sacrifice and campaign.
Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh told The Hindu that the AFSPA was imposed to combat foreign-trained extremists who had gained an upper hand in the State. If it was withdrawn the extremists belonging to more than 60 underground organisations would get the carte blanche.
The State would be in an embarrassing position if it had to go to the Centre for getting the AFSPA reinstated.
He said that in view of the protests by the people, the government had lifted the Act on an experimental basis from seven Assembly segments of Imphal Municipal areas on August 22, 2004. The government had hoped for a good response from the extremists. However, they launched an attack during a Ras Lila dance festival at the International Society for Krishna Consciousness here , killing six persons and injuring many others.
Withdrawal of the Act had not made much of a difference, Mr. Singh said, adding that his government was under great pressure to reinstate the Act in the segments.