Indian activist ends hunger strike after 16 years

Irom Chanu Sharmila has been called the 'Iron Lady of Manipur'

Indian activist ends hunger strike after 16 years

Irom Chanu Sharmila. Image: Mongyamba via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

An activist in India is due to end her hunger strike today - 16 years after she started the protest.

Irom Chanu Sharmila - known to many as the 'Iron Lady of Manipur' - began her strike on November 2000, in protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

The controversial legislation, enacted in 1958, gives armed forces in India 'sweeping powers' to deal with insurgents in certain areas of the country.

The act allows soliders to detain suspects without warrant and even 'shoot to kill' in certain circumstances.

Sharmila began her hunger strike after 10 civilians, including children and elderly women, were shot dead while waiting at a bus stop in Malom, Manipur on November 2nd 2000.

The incident has been called the 'Malom Massacre'.

Shortly after beginning her protest, Sharmila was charged with 'attempting to commit suicide'.

She has been released and rearrested several times since, and has had to appear in court every two weeks.

Sharmila has been fed through a nasal tube at what Zee News describes as a "prison-turned-hospital".

Organisations including Amnesty International have repeatedly called for all charges against Sharmila to be dropped.

The activist, who has been released on bail after confirming her intention to end her hunger strike, now intends to run for political office.

Quoted by Zee News, she said: “I have been fasting for 16 years and not got anything from it. I want to try different agitation now - one that will see me contest against the Chief Minister of the State".

The end of the hunger strike coincides with the anniversary of the Quit India Movement, which was launched in August 1942 as part of the campaign to win independence from Britain.