TNI Bureau: Irom Chanu Sharmila, a renowned civil rights activist, who is popularly known as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, completed 12 years of fast on 4th November 2012. She has been on a hunger strike since year 2000 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA).
The cause of action for Sharmila’s world’s lengthiest fast took place twelve years back on 2nd November 2000, when the Assam Rifles shot dead ten peaceful civilians, who were waiting at a bus stop in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur.
Later, this unfortunate incident became popular in the name “Malom Massacre”. However, questioning this massacre and demanding removal of the notorious and archaic Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) from Manipur, Sharmila has been on fast since November 4, 2k, two days after the tragic incident. Her fast has become the longest-ever hunger strikes in the world history. Having refused food and water for more than 12 years, she has been called “the world’s longest hunger striker”.
Sharmila was arrested by the police just days after her strike with a charge of ‘attempt to commit suicide’ u/s 309 of the IPC. Later when her health further deteriorated and she still continued her hunger strike even in judicial custody, the police forcibly applied nasogastric intubation so as to keep her alive.
Ms Sharmila’s fast went on in this way but the govt. did not felt it necessary any day to heed to her demand. In this juncture, she became an ‘icon of public resistance’. In 2004 she went to Delhi with her demand and fast and conducted a protest demonstration at Jantar Mantar along with some students.
But her demand was suppressed and she was again arrested by Delhi Police for ‘attempting suicide’ and was taken to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, where she wrote letters to the Prime Minister, President and the Home Minister but did not get any answer.
In 2011 she invited anti-corruption activist Anna Hazare to visit Manipur, who sent two representatives to meet her. She also urged Mamata Banerjee, supremo of Trinamool Congress to help her in her cause. The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI ML) also declared its support for her and called for a nationwide agitation.
After completion of 11 years of her strike on 3rd November 2011 she again wrote to the Prime Minister. Again, on 3 November, 100 women formed a human chain in Ambari to show support to Sharmila, while other civil society groups staged a 24-hour fast in a show of solidarity. But all of these did not affect the government.
In the mean time Sharmila was awarded by several renowned institutions and societies for her noble cause. But last month she announced that she wouldn’t accept any award unless the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act was repealed from Manipur. Ms Sharmila’s legendary 12 year long (continuing) fast has been reflected in a number of literature and art forms too. Several people have also conveyed their point that Sharmila should be given the most prestigious Nobel Prize for peace.
Apart from being a civil or human right activist, Ms Sharmila (40) is also a political activist and well known poet in Manipur, the northeastern border state of India.
A few people are of the opinion that though the hunger strike is a huge example of sacrifice, the said Armed forces in Manipur are required to nab the disturbed law and order, Bangladeshi Influx, Islamic terror, Drug Mafia issues etc.