Indian woman to end 16-year hunger strike

July 26, 2016 7:00 pm

The photo taken on August 20,
2014, shows Indian activist Irom Chanu Sharmila reacting while
surrounded by media following her release from a hospital jail in
Imphal, . (AFP)

An Indian woman who has been
on hunger strike for nearly 16 years in protest against rights abuses by
the government declared Tuesday that she will end the strike and
contest the state elections.

“I have decided to end my
16-year fast on August 9 and contest the 2017 state elections as an
independent candidate,” 44-year-old Irom Chanu Sharmila said outside a
magistrate’s court in Imphal, the main city in the state of Manipur.
“My
fight so far has been all alone and so I have decided to wage a war
against the act democratically by becoming a lawmaker instead of
continuing with my fast,” said Sharmila, who is known as the Iron Lady
of Manipur for her unwavering and nonviolent protest against rights
abuses.
For more than 14 years, the rights campaigner has been
charged by prosecutors with attempted suicide. Officials have kept her
in a hospital ward in Imphal, where she is force-fed via a plastic nasal
drip several times a day.
She removed the nasal tube in 2014
after a court ordered her free and said there was no evidence that
Sharmila wanted to commit suicide by avoiding food. The maximum
punishment for attempting suicide is one year in prison in India. The
activist has often been released from custody after appearing in court
only to be re-arrested almost immediately on repeated charges of
attempting to take her own life.
Sharmila began the hunger strike
in 2000 after she saw Indian forces killing 10 people, including two
children, at a bus stop in Imphal.
She has urged the government
over the years to annul the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers
Act (AFSPA), which gives Indian forces more freedom in areas such as
Manipur and the restive state of Kashmir in the northwest.
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