Posted by News Express | 9 August 2016 | 1,666 times
One of India’s most iconic human rights activists, Irom Sharmila, ended a 16-year hunger strike Tuesday.
Sharmila has been fed through a plastic tube since November 2000, when she launched her protest against the controversial Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), a law which grants impunity to Indian armed forces accused of abuses.
Sharmila, known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, ended the protest by licking drops of honey in front of a crowd of reporters in her hometown Impal, the capital of the remote northeastern Manipur state.
“I want power to change it. I want to be the chief minister of Manipur,” Sharmila, 44, told reporters, reiterating her desire to contest state elections scheduled for early 2017.
She said she no longer believed her fast would lead to the repeal of the act, which gives security forces supreme power in “disturbed” areas of India such as the northeast region, where there are several separatist groups, and Indian-held Kashmir.
Rights activists said the government of India should respond by starting a dialogue to repeal the act.
“Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike over the last 16 years has been a testament to her passion for human rights and her belief that a draconian law like the AFSPA has no place in any society. The government arrested her, confined her to a hospital room and force-fed her for 16 years, seemingly to break her will. There was zero dialogue. A peaceful protest was criminalized,” said Abhirr VP, a senior campaigner with Amnesty International India.
Teresa Rahman, a senior journalist covering northeast India, told Anadolu Agency that Sharmila’s decision to enter politics may not prove fruitful.
“She will be definitely a voice against AFSPA. She will remain an icon for what she did for the past 16 years. But I don’t see her playing a really big role as a politician. She will be able to play a more constructive role as an activist,” she said. (Anadolu Agency)