Sharmila has been fasting since November 2000, demanding repeal of the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. She is being forced-fed through her nose by the government in the security ward of JN Hospital.
This is NHRC's first visit in last 12 years. Commission, led by KG Balakrishnan said that permission to visit Sharmila must be issued under the regime that governs all persons in judicial custody. An NHRC statement issued on Wednesday said the restrictions to meet Sharmila breach India's obligations under international human rights standards and principles and is a grave violation of human rights.
The commission has asked the Manipur chief secretary to reply by December 6 on the steps taken in response to the recommendation.
The commission also said that it believes that if the state government could deny permission to its special rapporteur, a retired DGP and to special rapporteurs of the UN to visit Sharmila, it is unlikely that it gives others access to her.
"It would appear that while keeping her alive, since her death would create problems for the state government, it is trying to break her spirit through this enforced isolation for which there is no judicial mandate, though she is in judicial custody," the NHRC said in its statement.
The NHRC said Sharmila is a person of concern to it on three counts. Firstly she is a person in custody on the terms of whose imprisonment the commission has received some complaints.
Secondly, it has been represented to the commission and to the UN special rapporteurs who have visited India that the terms of her imprisonment have deliberately been made harsh because she is a human rights defender.
Lastly, in so far as she is held in conditions that are onerous because of her peaceful opposition to an aspect of government police, a law whose repeal she seeks, she is a prisoner of conscience, said an NHRC statement.
A Times of India report says that two commission members, accompanied by senior officers, had met Sharmila on October 23 and they found her frail but alert and did not complain of any ill treatment.