The Iconic 44-year old rights activist Irom Sharmila on Tuesday announced that she is soon going to end her 16-year hunger strike on 9th August. Her decision to stop the fast to enter politics and fight Manipur elections has surprised her family and the whole nation.
Irom Chanu Sharmila started her hunger strike in November 2000, demanding the revoke of the “draconian” Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Manipur state and other parts of the nation. Sharmila has been on the hunger strike refusing to eat and drink and many times she was charged for attempting suicide. She has been force-fed through a nasal tube in Jawahar Lal Nehru Hospital, Imphal where she is put into a separate ward that serves as a prison to her.
Ms. Sharmila now decided to withdraw her protest and join politics, as she is no longer interested in the movement which would never lead to the revoke of the AFSPA. “I will end my fast on August 9 and contest the elections as an Independent,” said Irom Sharmila to the journalists while she was making her way out of the Court where she is confronting trail for attempting suicide.
Babloo Loitongbam, Director of NGO Human Rights Alert and close associate of Ms Sharmila in a statement said, “We are trying to speak to her to get a sense of how she wants to take struggle forward. Of course if she wants to end her fast, it is totally her prerogative but it is also important to carry the struggle forward.”
Well, Ms Sharmila’s decision has surprised the family members and the nation. No one ever expected that she would withdraw her protest and enter politics. Her non-violent fight for years bought her many awards like the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which is given to “an outstanding person or group, active in the promotion and advocacy of peace, democracy and human rights.” Sharmila was too high that in the year 2000, she decided not to meet her mother till the Indian government revokes the AFSPA.
Singhajit, Sharmila’s elder brother also responded to her decision and said “I haven’t spoken to her in the last few days due to my bad health. I heard it from others about her decision.” He said that earlier he had tried hard to convince her to drop the fast, but she never listened to him.
It is still a dilemma to the nation as no one knows who influenced her to take this decision. According to the reports, few associates of her say that her British Boyfriend might be the one behind her decision to call off the strike.
Another associate of Ms Sharmila stated, “But it is also her frustration at the government for not listening to the demands of the people. So she is changing her path from activism to politics. Her goal remains the same – revocation of AFSPA.”