Irom Sharmila Chanu, also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Mengoubi”, who has been on a fast since November, 2000 as a mark of protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958), on Tuesday (July 26) announced she will end her hunger strike on August 9.
For the last 16 years, Sharmila, popularly known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, has lived under house arrest as an undertrial prisoner in room number one in the special ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. She has been force fed through her nose the entire time — the Ryles tube used to feed her has become a symbol of Manipur’s fight against AFSPA.
In an announcement that took many by surprise, Sharmila said she will give up her fast, get married and fight next year’s assembly elections in Manipur.
Addressing the media outside the Imphal court premises — Sharmila is facing charges under IPC section 309 (attempt to commit suicide) — Sharmila explained her decision: “The Government has not been listening to our voices and has been suppressing our movement.”
The sudden decision of civil rights activist Irom Sharmila to end her 16-year-old hunger strike against AFSPA next month has taken everyone by surprise including her associates and family members.
Irom’s elder brother Singhajit, who has been with her throughout her struggle said he never knew she was going to terminate her fast.
“I haven’t spoken to her in the last few days due to my bad health. I heard it from others about her decision,” he said.