March 21, 2023

India’s Iron Lady Went on a Hunger Strike for 16 Years – Irom Chanu Sharmila

India’s Iron Lady  Went on a Hunger Strike for 16 Years

A lot can happen in 16 years—just think about Y2K and the rise of the internet and you’ll realize how much you’ve done since the year 2000. But for one Indian woman, the last 16 years have memorable hunder strike not because of what she did, but rather what she didn’t do: eat. India’s Irom Chanu Sharmila, nicknamed the “Iron Lady,” has finally broken her 16-year-long fast that turned her body into a symbol of resistance against state violence.

Ms. Sharmila ended her fast exactly a month after the Supreme Court judgment questioned the immunity enjoyed by the security personnel under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) against criminal action for acts committed in disturbed areas. The apex court had said last month that there was no concept of “absolute immunity” from trial by a criminal court if an Army man had committed an offence.

I am neither an icon nor a goddess

Ms. Sharmila started her fast at the age of 28 following a massacre in Imphal in which 10 persons were killed. She has been demanding repeal of the draconian AFSPA.

The 44-year-old activist was clear in her resolve to withdraw her fast and appealed to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court to set her free, soon after she reached the court at 10.58 am.

Ms. Sharmila told journalists that she is neither an icon nor a goddess but an “ordinary woman with ordinary desires.” Asked about her plans for marriage, she said it is her “personal issue and a very natural one.

Earlier in court, she stood up several times and asked the Magistrate to speed up proceedings. Her patience during a near solitary life for so long seemed to have run out.

Irom Shamila from a global icon

A few hours later after the court granted her bail, Hunger strike held a press conference and broke her fast. She gave a clear message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to connect to people without the draconian laws.” She also underlined the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.

Released from custody, however, she does not know where to go. She does not want to see her mother Irom Sakhi as she had promised her that she will meet her only after the AFSPA is repealed. “I think I want to settle in an ashram,” she told the media.

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