Indian activist Irom Sharmila was on hunger strike for 16 years, the longest in world history.
However, she decided to break her fast on 9th August 2016. Why did she do this?
Here’s the video of Irom Sharmila tasting food for the first time after 16 long years, by tasting honey. Here is her message to the public after she breaks her fast:
- Irom Sharmila started her iconic fast in 2000, to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA, which the Indian government had placed on her home state Manipur.
- AFSPA gives security forces the power to search properties without a warrant, arrest people, and use deadly force if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is acting against the state.
- Irom Sharmila took up the fast after members of the Indian army killed ten civilians in Manipur, while they were waiting at a bus stop.
- The army went scot-free as they were granted immunity in Manipur by AFSPA.
- Sharmila was force-fed liquids like as juices and baby food through a Ryles tube inserted into her nose.
- She continued her hunger strike against all odds, and was kept in a hospital ward.
- Amnesty International declared her as a Prisoner of Conscience.
- Despite her efforts, AFSPA was not repealed by the Indian government.
- She now wants to run in state elections and become the Chief Minister of Manipur.
- She aims to continue her efforts for justice through politics instead of peaceful protest.
Manipur’s next Chief Minister – Irom Sharmila?
When breaking her 16-year-long fast, Irom Sharmila said, “I have been fasting for the last 16 years. I haven’t got anything from it yet. I am ending my fast today. I want to try a different agitation now. I will contest against the Chief Minister of Manipur in the upcoming state elections. I have ended my fast today because I want power, I want to be able to have the power to repeal AFSPA from Manipur. I want to become the Chief Minister of Manipur to be able to do this.”
About the Indian state of Manipur, she said, “In Manipur, there is no real democracy. Politics is so dirty here and everyone knows it. Manipuri society is also involved in this dirtiness but no one accepts it. That’s the problem. I am not restricted to this state or nation. I am the embodiment of revolution. I want to become the Chief Minister so I can change society here.”
However, this event is yet another reminder for the Indian government to realize how deeply civilians are affected by AFSPA. “Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike over the last 16 years has been a testament to her passion for human rights, and her belief that a draconian law like the AFSPA has no place in any society. The government arrested her, confined her to a hospital room and force fed her for 16 years, seemingly to break her will. There was zero dialogue. A peaceful protest was criminalized,” shares Abhirr VP, Senior Campaigner with Amnesty International India.
While unfortunately Irom Sharmila’s peaceful protest did not help her achieve her goal, we hope she successfully enters politics to ensure the people of Manipur can have their voices heard.
Image credit: American Center Mumbai