10:56pm, 27th July, 2016


5 mins

On August 9th a historic phase of a movement that attracted international attention will end. Irom Sharmila will break her fast. Read to find out what it actually means.
Almost 16 years into her continuous hunger strike, Irom Sharmila decided to end her fast. She was protesting against the misuse of Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA). She will continue her fight, now, by joining politics and conducting elections from Manipur next year. Let’s look into what this is all about:

Who is Irom Sharmila?
Known as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, Irom Chanu Sharmila is a civil rights and political activist who started a hunger strike in the year 2000 against the misuse of AFSPA by the military forces. Born in 1972, she is the youngest of nine siblings who grew up in Manipur. She gave up her ambition to become a doctor and decided to fight against the human rights violation in Manipur. Irom Sharmila has the distinction of being the world’s longest hunger striker, keeping steadfastly to her cause. She has been on hunger strike for more than 15 years.



What is AFSPA?
Passed by the Parliament in 1958, the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) gives special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in seven sister states in the North east which they considered as “disturbed areas”. According to this Act, the armed forces have the power to search anyone’s property and arrest people without any warrant.



Why was Irom Sharmila on years-long hunger strike?
On November 2000, the Assam Rifles military forces shot and killed 10 innocent civilians at a bus stop in a small town called Malom. Among them was a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner, and this incident known as the Malom massacre triggered Irom Sharmila to go on a hunger strike against AFSPA.

NEW DELHI, INDIA - NOVEMBER 4: The members of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign observed candle light vigil in solidarity with Remove AFSPA at Raj Ghat on November 4, 2013 in New Delhi, India. Manipuri civil rights activist Irom Sharmila Chanu also known as Iron Lady of Manipur is completing 13 years of her hunger-protest to repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 on November 5. (Photo by Sushil Kumar/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

What is her demand?
Irom Sharmila demanded that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gave the army extra powers in Manipur. She was arrested and later charged her for attempting suicide. When her health deteriorated, she was force fed through a nasal tube order to keep her alive even while she was in prison. The government couldn’t break her spirit despite arresting, releasing and re-arresting every year on the charge of attempt to suicide. In 2006, she along with other activists conducted a hunger strike at Jantar Mantar in Delhi but was again arrested.


Did her hunger strike have any effect on the law?
Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike got international attention and members of the European parliament too wrote to the Indian government seeking modification of the Act. Two parties came to her support in 2014 and requested that she contest in the Lok Sabha elections. But the government having kept her in prison, she was denied the right to vote since she was in prison.



What is the present scenario?
Even after writing to the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then to his successor Narendra Modi, the repeal of AFSPA is still a distant dream. In 2016, Irom Sharmila was released from judicial custody but decided to keep her vow of not going to her house or meeting her mother until the government repealed AFSPA. Irom Sharmila has now decided to end her fast on August 9th and has decided to take the political route to achieve her goal. She has indicated that she would contest the state elections in Manipur next year.



So there it is. The end of one struggle and beginning of another. We wish her luck.

Also read: What’s happening in Kashmir after Burhan Wani’s encounter?

Feature Image:
News Source: New Indian Express