GUWAHATI: The family of Manipur’s “Iron Lady” Irom Sharmila is optimistic about the possible release of the human rights crusader, after the Centre on Wednesday decided to decriminalise “attempt to suicide” by deleting Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code from the statute book.
Not just Sharmila’s family, human rights activists and Sharmila Kanba Lup, a united forum of Sharmila supporters is equally ecstatic. “We are hoping that she will be released from jail soon,” Sharmila’s brother Singhajit said. “We are in touch with our lawyer. We are also gearing up to intensify our movement seeking the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA),” he added.
Rights body Human Rights Alert (HRA) has also welcomed the government decision. “We welcome it. The government move is, indeed, humane,” RHA head Babloo Loitongbam told Express. “For years, Section 309 had been misused to detain Sharmila. But she cannot be criminalised anymore now,” he added. Sharmila Kanba Lup, which met on Wednesday in Imphal to decide on stepping up its movement demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, has also welcomed it.
Union Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary said the government decided to drop Section 309 from the IPC after 18 States and four Union Territories backed the Law Commission of India’s recommendations in this regard. Recently, Sharmila lamented that the Centre had misconstrued her hunger strike as an attempt to commit suicide. She has been on a fast-unto-death for 14 years now, demanding the repeal of the AFSPA from Manipur.
The 42-year-old activist has spent long years in an Imphal hospital, which has been converted into a jail for her. The hunger-strike began on November 2, 2000.