After going 16 years without food,one of India’s most prominent political activists ended a hunger strike Tuesday, licking honey from her hand and declaring “I will never forget this moment.”
Irom began her fast on November 2, 2000 after she allegedly witnessed the killing of 10 civilians by paramilitary soldiers at a bus stop near her home.
She began her fast to protest a draconian security law that gives immense power to security forces in the northeastern state of Manipur.
She was charged with attempting suicide — a crime in India — was confined to a hospital room and force-fed through a tube in her nose for 16 years, seemingly to break her will.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge had granted her bail after she assured him that she planned to end her fast, surprising supporters. Magistrate Lamkkhanpau Tonsing said she was being released after submitting bail of 10,000 rupees ($150) and a written pledge to stop her fast.
Irom has said she would like to marry her fiance, a British national of Indian origin who she met after starting her fast. Doctors have said she will need medical help to begin eating again.
She isn’t totally backing down, she’s just found a new route -She plans to run in the next Manipur state elections as an independent candidate, in early 2017, to fight to have the security act struck down.
“My fight so far has been all alone and so I have decided to wage a war against the (AFSPA) act democratically by becoming a lawmaker instead of continuing with my fast,” she told reporters.
“I need power to remove this act,” said Sharmila, 44. “I am the real embodiment of revolution.”
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is in effect in Indian-ruled Kashmir and in a number of northeastern areas facing separatist insurgencies. The law gives security forces the right to shoot to kill suspected rebels without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without warrants. It also gives police wide-ranging powers of search and seizure.
The act prohibits soldiers from being prosecuted for alleged rights violations except with express permission from the federal government. Such prosecutions are rare.
Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of Conscience in 2013 and she has received several prestigious international prizes, including a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission.