Indian police rearrest woman on hunger strike for 14 years, two days after release

Indian rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on hunger strike for fourteen years, being led by policewomen after her rearrest at the site of her protest in Imphal, capital of India's north-eastern Manipur state, on August 22, 2014. Indian polic
Indian rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been on hunger strike for fourteen years, being led by policewomen after her rearrest at the site of her protest in Imphal, capital of India's north-eastern Manipur state, on August 22, 2014. Indian police on August 22 rearrested a woman who has been on hunger strike for 14 years to protest against rights abuses, just two days after she was released on the orders of a court. -- PHOTO: AFP

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian police on Friday rearrested a woman who has been on hunger strike for 14 years to protest against rights abuses, just two days after she was released on the orders of a court.

Television footage showed officers forcibly removing Irom Sharmila, known as the Iron Lady of Manipur for her unwavering and non-violent protest.

"A group of women police arrived at the makeshift protest venue and forcibly took her away," local activist Janaki Devi told AFP. "They said she was arrested for refusing to eat, which according to authorities is tantamount to attempted suicide."

The police said she would be taken to a prison hospital in Imphal, the capital of northeastern Manipur state, and force fed via nasal drip. "We cannot let her die," a senior police official told AFP, on condition of anonymity.

Ms Sharmila began her hunger strike in November 2000 after witnessing the army kill 10 people at a bus stop near her home in Manipur, which is subject to the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

AFSPA, which covers large parts of north-eastern India and the restive state of Kashmir, gives Indian forces sweeping powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight, and is seen by critics as a cover for human-rights abuses.

She was released from the prison hospital on Wednesday, a day after a Manipur court ruled that a longstanding criminal charge against her of attempting suicide was unsustainable.

The lower sessions court ruled that the fast by Ms Sharmila, who insists she is not trying to take her own life, is a "political protest through lawful means".

However, the court said in Tuesday's judgment that the state government "may take appropriate measures for her health and safety" such as continuing with feeding her through her nose if she continues to fast.

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