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Move to decriminalise suicide raises hope for Sharmila's release

Move to decriminalise suicide raises hope for Sharmilas release

Imphal: The central government's move to decriminalise attempt to suicide has ushered in new hope for release of Manipur's rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been fasting for over 14 years.

The human rights fraternity of the northeastern state is now planning to move the court for release of Sharmila, better known as the "Iron Lady of Manipur", who has been fasting since November 2000 to demand repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers' Act (AFSPA).

Sharmila's brother Irom Shinghajit expressed his happiness over the decision, saying this would help Sharmila get out of the jail and will boost their movement against the AFSPA.

Manipur-based rights activist Babloo Loitongbam said: "We are going to move court soon for necessary orders. The central government's decision has removed criminal tinge from the Sharmila's movement, we have been saying that her movement is a political one."

Sharmila decided to sit for indefinite fast after the Assam Rifles killed 10 civilians at Malom in Imphal.

A court in August observed that the "charge of attempt to commit suicide was wrongly framed against the petitioner (Sharmila)" and asked the state government to release her immediately.

However, she was re-arrested within 48 hours of her release. Justifying her re-arrest, Manipur Police said Sharmila was re-arrested on charges of attempt to commit suicide under Section 309 of the IPC.

Union Minister of State for Home Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary Wednesday told the Rajya Sabha that the government has decided to decriminalise "attempt to suicide" by deleting section 309 of the Indian Penal Code from the statute book.

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.

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