“The court has set her free,” lawyer Mani Khaidem said of Irom Sharmila, who was arrested shortly after beginning her protest.
Sharmila, known as the Iron Lady of Manipur for her unwavering and non-violent protest, has refused food and water for almost 14 years to draw attention to abuses allegedly committed by security forces.
She began her fast in November 2000 after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home in Manipur, which is subject to the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
She was arrested on charges of attempted suicide and was sent to a prison hospital where she was force-fed via a nasal drip several times a day. ANI reported that a sessions court in Manipur said the prosecution had failed to prove its charge of attempted suicide against Sharmila and she should be released from house arrest.
Babloo Loitangbam, a human rights activist in the northeast who is close to Sharmila, said the court had accepted that the charge was not sustainable. “There has been a consistent position where activists have been saying that Sharmila is not taking her life, she is making a political point which is to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act,” AFP quoted Loitangbam telling the NDTV network.
Sharmila also faces similar charges in New Delhi where she has staged a hunger-strike in the past.
The (AFSPA), which covers large parts of northeastern India and Kashmir, gives security forces sweeping powers to search, enter property and shoot-on-sight and is seen by critics as cover for human rights abuses.
In October 2013 Amnesty India, recognised Sharmila as a ‘prisoner of conscience’, who is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.