In­dia’s Iron Lady gives up hunger strike to en­ter pol­i­tics

The Myanmar Times - - World -

AN In­dian rights ac­tivist who has waged what is thought to be the world’s long­est hunger strike ended her 16-year fast yes­ter­day, two weeks af­ter declar­ing she was en­ter­ing pol­i­tics.

Irom Sharmila, dubbed the “Iron Lady of Ma­nipur” for her un­wa­ver­ing protest against rights abuses in the in­sur­gency-hit northeast In­dian state, was re­leased on bail af­ter she promised she would end her fast.

She had been held in ju­di­cial cus­tody on charges of at­tempt­ing sui­cide – still a crim­i­nal of­fence in In­dia – and force-fed.

Ms Irom is cam­paign­ing for the re­peal of the Armed Forces Spe­cial Pow­ers Act (AFSPA), which cov­ers large parts of the northeast and the restive state of Kash­mir.

It gives In­dian forces sweep­ing pow­ers to search, en­ter prop­erty and shoot on sight, and is seen by crit­ics as a cover for hu­man rights abuses.

Ms Irom be­gan her fast on Novem­ber 2, 2000 af­ter al­legedly wit­ness­ing the killing of 10 peo­ple by the army at a bus stop near her home.

Two weeks ago she sur­prised sup­port­ers by declar­ing she would end it to stand in 2017 state elec­tions as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date.

“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 at the time. –

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