World’s Longest Hunger Strike Ends

Activist ends her hunger strike after 16 years

Irom Sharmila Chanu. Picture: BBC

Indian Irom Sharmila Chanu first began her hunger strike back in 2000 as a protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act which gave soldiers the power to arrest and even kill without a warrant. She was prompted to action after the law allowed for the killing of ten civilians by solders in Manipur.

The civil rights activist and former poet has not voluntarily ingested food for almost two decades as part of her staunch protest. Instead she has been force-fed through a tube in her nose and kept in judicial custody in a hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur. Her forced liquid diet consists of a mix of medicines, protein supplements and baby formula.

In addition to not feeding, Chanu vowed to not comb her hair or look in a mirror.

Her fast surpassed Manipur and gained international recognition. In 2007, she was awarded the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. She also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Human Rights Commission and in 2013, Amnesty International officially declared her a Prisoner of Conscience.

In 2014, she was released from custody by the courts after they rejected the charge that she was trying to commit suicide. However she was then re-arrested a mere two days later. Footage showed the activist being apprehended by a group of policewoman and placed in the back of a jeep.

Since then, the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ has shown up in Manipur High Court every fortnight in order to reconfirm her protest.

Now, Chanu has decided to end her hunger strike, telling the courts last month that she intends to campaign as an independent candidate for the upcoming assembly elections in Manipur. As a high profile figure in Indian politics, Sharmila’s campaign may prove promising, having already been asked to stand in the national election two years ago.


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