Paving the way for her trial, a city court charged Irom Sharmila Chanu, on fast for over 12 years demanding repeal of the controversial Armed forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), for allegedly attempting suicide by undertaking a fast unto death for two days in 2006.
If convicted, Chanu, out on bail in the case, will face a maximum jail term of one year. The human rights activist, who said her protest was non-violent, appeared before the court with her nose tube in place, a day after flying in from Manipur.
I don’t want to take my life, I want justice: Irom
As Sharmila entered the Patiala House Courts premises, 40-50 of her supporters shouted slogans outside the gate. “Repeal AFSPA, we are with you,” the supporters carrying placards shouted in unison.
Metropolitan magistrate Akash Jain framed charges under section 309 (attempting to commit suicide) of the IPC against 40-year-old Chanu, who pleaded not guilty. “It is alleged against you Irom Sharmila Chanu…that you on October 4, 2006 at about 8 pm sat at Jantar Mantar on fast unto death uptil 11.30 pm on October 6, 2006 and refused to get your medical check-up and thereby committed an act with an intention or knowledge that under such circumstances that death may be caused and thereby committed an offence under section 309 of IPC and within the cognizance of this court,” the trial court said, while fixing the next hearing for May 22 for recording of prosecution evidence.
During the hearing, Sharmila rejected the charge that she had attempted suicide over six years back saying, “I do not want to commit suicide. Mine is only a non-violent protest. It is my demand to live as a human being. I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace”. To this, the magistrate said, “I respect you, but the law of the land does not permit you to take your life”.
The court gave some time to her and asked her counsel to make her understand the process of law and whether she was pleading guilty for the offence.
Sharmila’s counsel Svetlana told the court that Chanu, protesting in a non-violent way like Mahatma Gandhi, had been on fast for over 12 years for the people of Manipur. “People of Manipur are neglected by the government and this is our request that she should not be forced to take food orally,” according to the counsel.
Keeping in view her fragile health, Svetlana requested the court that Sharmila’s should not be asked to repeatedly appear before it. The magistrate replied, “Regarding an exemption, if she is not capable to appear, an appropriate application should be moved. The matter will be fixed for evidence now. I cannot pass a blanket order”.
Later, the activist said, “If AFSPA is repealed by the government, then only will I take food and take out the food pipe” through which she is fed. The magistrate, however, told her, “This is a political process. Here I am concerned with this case only.”