Irom Sharmila: All about the 'Iron Lady' of Manipur

On Tuesday, the Manipur activist is set to end her 16-year-old long fast which she began in 2000 against the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).  

Irom Sharmila: All about the 'Iron Lady' of Manipur

Imphal: Almost sixteen years after she started a hunger strike, India's 'Iron Lady' Irom Chanu Sharmila ended her fast on Tuesday. 

After ending her fast, a frail looking Irom announced that she will continue her fight against the controversial AFSPA and will join politics. She added further that she wants to be Manipur Chief Minister and will contest the next year Manipur assembly elections. 

As Irom Sharmila embarks on a new journey today, we take a look at girl from a small Manipur village who took the nation by storm: 

  • Irom Sharmila grew up and lived in Manipur, the state that suffered from insurgency for decades - from 2005 to 2015 at least 5,000 people lost their lives in the political violence. She was the youngest of nine siblings. 
  • Initially, Irom wanted to be a doctor but chose to be a rights activist to wage war against AFSPA, which allows security men to even kill a person on suspicion without the fear of facing a trial in court.
  • Irom began her fast in Malom in Manipur on November 2, 2000, and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed.
  • Irom was only 28 when she began her hunger strike, three days after Assam Rifles personnel gunned down at least 10 people including several teenage students on their way tot tuition classes, near Imphal. She kept her vow of neither entering her house nor meeting her mother till the government repeals AFSPA. 
  • She has spent most of the last 16 years in judicial custody in a hospital in Manipur's capital, Imphal, where she has force-fed a cocktail of medicines and baby formula. Irom was released in August 2014 after the court rejected the charge that she was 'attempting to commit suicide'. But she was re-arrested two days later after she refused to end her protest.
  • In 2014 two parties asked her to stand in the national election, but she declined. She was then denied the right to vote as a person confined in jail cannot vote according to law.
  • On March 28, 2016, she was released from judicial custody as charges against her was rejected by a local court in Imphal. However, she was rearrested by the Manipur police again under the same charge of attempt to commit suicide by means of indefinite fast. Irom has been released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began.
  • In October 2011, the Manipur Pradesh All India Trinamool Congress announced their support for Sharmila and called on party chief Mamata Banerjee to help repeal the AFSPA.
  • Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, she has been called 'the world's longest hunger striker'. 

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