Irom Sharmila – honorably dubbed as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” has officially ended her 16-year hunger strike after tasting a few drops of honey this past Tuesday.
The 44-year-old activist also announced to reporters that she intends to run in the field of politics.
“There is no democracy in Manipur. I want to be Chief Minister of Manipur and [to] make positive changes” she stated.
Sharmila’s journey began on November, 2nd, 2000 when 10 people were killed waiting on a bus stop in Malom, Imphal Valley, Manipur. The attack became to be known as the “Malom Massacre” and the assailants were the Assam Rifles, which is the oldest military force in India. Unfortunately, they were guaranteed impunity under the AFSPA.
As a result, Sharmila – an already young and budding 28-year-old activist, begun her hunger strike on November 5 as a form of resistance and protest to change. She was arrested three days later under the grounds of “attempt to commit suicide” which is illegal in her native.
For 16 years, Sharmila has been force fed through nasal tube and in and out of custody because of her fight for justice. She has been arrested a countless amount of times for the crime of trying to kill herself. So, because of her will to eat, she will also gain her freedom.
Her abrupt and shocking declaration came exactly a month after the Supreme Court Judgment reconsidered the “immunity” allotted to military forces under the 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) against illegal activities committed in disturbed areas, reports the Hindu.
In 2006, after her release from prison, she traveled to the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi, where she along with other activists and students performed a demonstration. In other instance, 30 outraged women stripped naked in front of the Assam Headquarters, repeating “Indian Army rape us” in support of Sharmila.
In 2004, twelve Manipur mothers protested naked against the atrocities of Assam Rifles. They were particularly upset at the alleged rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama by the military force. They held signs that read “Indian Army Rape Us Too… We are all Manorama’s mothers”. This took place in front of the Kangla Fort in Imphal, which was where the Assam station was previously located.
Sharmila has been questioned and criticized due to her sudden change in agenda, but her path to reform continues on.
“People say politics is dirty, so is society” commented.
Sharmila has said that she will go to an “ashram” which is a monastery. She has not seen her mother since the beginning of her strike and has vowed that she will not visit her until the AFSPA is lifted.
Citing Mahatma Ghandi as her idol, she stated:
“I am neither an icon nor a goddess but an ordinary woman with ordinary desires”, according to the Hindu.
Instead, her commitment will carry on through the spirit of politics.