India police take fasting activist back to hospital after she is freed from 14-year detention

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NEW DELHI — A frail Indian activist who has been on a hunger strike for nearly 14 years to protest alleged military brutality scuffled with police Friday as they took her back to the same government hospital where she had been force-fed.

Irom Sharmila, 42, vowed to continue the hunger strike that landed her in prison for the past 14 years. She walked free on Wednesday after a court threw out the charges of attempted suicide against her. Attempted suicide is a crime in India.

Sharmila has not eaten voluntarily since November 2000, but 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.

Sharmila was incarcerated in a government hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur state, and by law was released once a year to see if she would start eating. When she did not, she was taken back into custody and force-fed through a tube in her nose.

It was not immediately clear if police plan to detain her or press fresh charges, and several calls to police officials went unanswered.

Television footage showed the frail activist caught in a scuffle between protesters who rallied to her support and policewomen taking her away to the same ward where she spent most of her incarceration.

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.

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