Rights activist Sharmila ends 16 years’ fasting
Human rights activist Irom Sharmila today ended her 16-year-long hunger strike, which is thought to the world’s longest, to stand for election.
The 44-year-old poet and award winning activist plans to contest as an independent candidate in the upcoming state elections in Manipur and continue to fight for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) through politics, reports NDTV.
Taking the first in a series of steps towards a new life that will include politics and marriage, Sharmila said, "I am not a goddess, I want to be a human being. I want to be the Chief Minister of Manipur to make a positive difference."
"People say politics is dirty, but so is society," Sharmila told reporters.
This morning, she left the prison hospital in which she spent much of her last 16 years being held in judicial custody and has been force-fed through a plastic tube after being arrested for attempted suicide, which is a crime.
With her first taste of food, she winced, then broke down and wept for several moments.
For a section of her supporters and family, the end of the long fast is a surprise and a disconcerting one.
Bombarded with questions about her political future and her plans, the 44-year-old said, haltingly but defiantly: "This is my life. I want equality... I am called the Iron Lady of Manipur and I want to live up to it."
She also wants to marry. For years, she has exchanged letters with Desmond Coutinho, a Goa-based British citizen who has also met her.
Asked whether she was a woman in love, Sharmila replied: "It is natural."
Irom Sharmila, often cited as the “Iron Lady of Manipur”, began fasting in 2000 as part of a campaign for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur after she allegedly witnessed the army kill 10 people at a bus stand close to her house.
The controversial act allows security forces to shoot on sight and arrest anybody without warrant, and is in effect in Kashmir and much of the northeast India.
The Supreme Court of India last month ordered for an investigation into the use of “excessive and retaliatory” force by police and the army in Manipur.