Teary-eyed Sharmila walks free, vows to carry on her fast

Teary-eyed Sharmila walks free, vows to carry on her fast

A teary-eyed rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for 14 years, today walked free from a make-shift prison here vowing to continue her fight for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Without the familiar nasal drip, a part of the abiding symbol of her struggle, frail-looking Sharmla, 41, was escorted out of the government hospital at Porompat where a room was converted into a jail.

"It's God's will. I'm emotional...I have been suffering so much", said the activist with a faltering voice, a day after a sessions court here ordered her release and acquitted her of the charge of attempting to commit suicide by refusing food.

Sharmila, who has been on hunger strike since November, 2000, vowed to continue her fast until her demand for withdrawal of AFSPA is met.

"Until and unless my demands are fulfilled, I will not take anything through my mouth. It is my right. It is a means for my struggle", she said.

Terming AFSPA as a "draconian" law that gave rise to a "lots of widows", Sharmila said her agitation "is for justice" and sought the people's support for it.

"What I want from the people is not singing my glory but their mass support. Real win lies in fulfilment of my demands....for the last 14 years, I have been suffering so much", she said.

Sharmila said "my struggle proves that I am right and justice must be served."

Asked how hopeful she is about repeal of AFSPA, she said "it depends on the sinceity of the people. If people are united, decisions of the government can be changed easily".

Asked if she expected to be free after such long imprisonment, Sharmila said "I want freedom so much but with success".

Asked what was her message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the rights activist said "after Godhra riots, many people felt hatred towards his rule but now he is the head of the whole country's government. So, to hold the people's mind, and to rule the people, you need non-violence".

Sharmila had gone on hunger strike after 10 people were shot dead in a suspected encounter with insurgents near Imphal airport in November, 2000 allegedly by personnel of Assam Rifles. Three days later, she was arrested and charged with attempt to suicide.

Soon after her release from the prison, Sharmila resumed her fast at the complex of the government hospital at Porompat.

"I will continue my stir till the withdrawal of the AFSPA from the state of Manipur,' she said.

Commenting on the order of the sessions court (Imphal East) yesterday, she said "I welcome the judgement that I was not trying to commit suicide but my agitation is democratic struggle".

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