India police re-arrest fasting activist

AP News
Posted: Aug 23, 2014 3:54 AM
India police re-arrest fasting activist

GAUHATI, India (AP) — Police re-arrested a frail Indian activist who has been on a hunger strike for nearly 14 years to protest alleged military brutality in India's remote northeast, her attorney said Saturday.

Police again charged 42-year-old Irom Sharmila with attempted suicide on Friday, two days after she was released from detention by a court order and the charge against her dropped, said attorney Khaidam Mani.

Attempted suicide is a crime in India.

The court ruled Tuesday that she was not fasting to kill herself but to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives security forces wide powers in quelling insurgencies.

On Friday, television footage showed the activist caught in a scuffle between her supporters and policewomen taking her away to the same government hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur state, where she had been force-fed for years.

"Now she is again refusing to take food and water and resisting any medical checkup as well. Her health has deteriorated and she will be kept at the same hospital ward where she was kept earlier," the Press Trust of India news agency quoted senior police officer Santosh Macherla as saying.

Amnesty International India criticized the re-arrest of Sharmila as "a farcical exercise and a setback for human rights in India."

"Instead of engaging with the important issues Irom Sharmila is raising, the Manipur state government has disappointingly returned to its old ways of muffling dissent," Shailesh Rai, a director with the rights group, said Friday.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in effect in Indian-ruled Kashmir and in northeastern areas like Manipur that are wracked by separatist insurgencies. The law gives troops the right of shoot-to-kill suspected rebels without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant. It also gives police wide-ranging powers of search and seizure.

The law prohibits soldiers from being prosecuted for alleged rights violations unless permission is granted by the federal government. Such prosecutions are rare.