IromChanuSharmila is an Indian lady whodevoted her young peppy life for the sake of Manipur people. She is in a hunger strike for more than a decade. She started the hunger strike on November 5th, 2000 indemand of abolishing the cruel Indian law Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Manipur. She is named “the world’s longest hunger striker” for refusing water and food for over 500 weeks. She is also recognized as the’ Iron Lady of Manipur’. She was chose as the ‘Top Woman Icon of India’ by MSN Poll in 2014.
Sharmila was born and brought up in Manipur, the north-eastern state of India. She was lived with her big family in Porompat colony of Imphal. She was the youngest of nine siblings. She was not good at studies and gave her dreams becoming a doctor when she tried but not passed in class 12 exam.
Manipur has been suffering due to the uprising movement, tribal conflict, terrorism and Government aided violence for decades. In last 10 years, 5500people died due to the political violence. In 1958, the Indian Government issued a law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 that applied for the seven sisters and Jammu and Kashmir. The law allows the security forces a special power to search any property without any warrant and to arrest people. The force can use deadly action if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is working against the state.
In 2000, Sharmila was working as a human rights activist. She was also engaged herself in local peace activities for protecting the human rights in Manipur. On 2nd November 2000, ten civilian were shot dead at the bus stop. This incident took place in Malom, a town in Imphal Valley of Manipur. That incident is known as theMalom Massacre. Assam Riffles, one of the Paramilitary Forces of India functioning in the state were responsible for this massacre. Sharmila was horrified for this insensitive activity of Paramilitary Force. She began her protest in the form of fasting on 5 November. That time she was 28 years old. Her key demand to the Indian Government was to cancel the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) immediately from Manipur. She took the oath not to eat, drink or comb her hair even look in a mirror until AFSPA was banned. After three days of hunger strike she was arrested and charged with “attempt to commit suicide”. Later she was transfer to the judicial custody. But day by day her health deteriorated quickly and to keep her live, nasogastric intubation applied forcefully on 21 November. From that time Sharmila has been released and re- arrested every year under Indian Penal Code section 309. But she never called off her hunger strike. According to the Indian law, a person who “attempt to commit suicide… shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year ( or with fine or with both)”.
Soon she got popularity among people and had become an “Icon of Public Resistance”. On 2 October, 2006 she went to the Raj Ghat after her technical release. She said, “To pay floral tribute to my ideal Mahatma Gandhi”. On that evening she also joined in another protest demonstration at JantarMantar with students, activists and concerned citizen. In between that, 30 Manipuri women conduct a protest naked in support of Sharmila in front of the Assam Riffles headquarter. They had a banner which says, “Indian Army Rapes Us”. All of these women were arrested and imprisoned for three months.
On 6 October she was again arrested by the Delhi police for her protest in JantarMantarand took her to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences. She wrote letters to the President, the Prime Minister, and the Home Minister from the hospital bed. At that time she won the support of Nobel Laureate ShirinEbadi. The Nobel laureate promised her thatshe will take Sharmila’s cause to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
In 2011, she invited Gandhian activist Anna Hazare to visit Manipur. But Hazare sent his two representatives to meet her. The Manipur All India Trinomool Congress declared their support to the Sharmila and Party ChiefMamata Banerjee met Sharmila and promised to help her. The Communist Party of India Maxist – Leninist also announced their support to Sharmila and for cancelling the AFSPA and announced a nationwide agitation. In November Sharmila again sent letter to the Prime Minister to cancel the law. On 3 November, 100 women formed a human chain in Ambari to show their support to Sharmila. Another civil societygroups organized a 24 hours hunger strike.
The Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign was launched in 2011. That year in December The Pune University announced a scholarship to 39 female Manipuri students to take degree programme in honour of Sharmila’s 39 years of age.
Sharmila met her mother only once since she started the hunger strike. She said once, “The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother’s hand.
In 2013 March, she was put on a hearing for attempted suicide. The prosecution’s case was closed in June 2015. Sharmila was scheduled to appear in August 2015. Sharmila disclosed about the tensions between her and her organization in a TV interview. She complained that the members of the Just Peace Foundation had threated her to made honour killing for her relationship with Desmond Coutinho, a British citizen. She also complained that the organization preventing her to give monetary help to people whom she wants to help.
She is engaged in a hunger strike movement to abolish the law AFSPA for last 16 years. During these years she has arrested several times for her decades long hunger strike. Many organizations honoured her courage and patient for cancelling the law AFSPA. Sharmilawas honoured with Gwangju Prize for Human Rights in 2007. In 2009, she received the first Mayillama Award of the Mayillamma Foundation “for achievement of her nonviolent struggle in Manipur”. She won the lifetime achievement award from Asian Human Rights Commission in 2010. She also received Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize with a cash prize of rupees 51 lacsfrom the Indian Institute of Planning and Management. In 2013, Amnesty International announced her‘Prisoner of Conscience’ and declared “she is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs”.