Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the 'Iron Lady of Manipur' is a civil rights activist turned politician. Sharmila came to prominence in 2000 when she began a hunger strike on November 2. The strike went on for 16 long years finally ending on August 9 last year. Having refused food and water for over 500 weeks, she has been called the world's longest hunger striker.
Sharmila began her fast to protest the murder of ten civilians in the Manipur town of Malom. The 'Malom Massacre' as it came to be known, was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state. Sharmila, who was 28 at the time, began her fast with a demand to the Indian government asking for the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. She began her fast in Malom, and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed.
Three days after she began her strike, Sharmila was charged with an 'attempt to commit suicide', and arrested soon after. Sharmila has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began. By 2004, Sharmila had become a nationwide icon of anti-AFSPA protests.
Sharmila was awarded 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". In 2010, she won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission. Amnesty International has declared her as a prisoner of conscience.
End of the fast
On July 26, last year, Irom Sharmila, announced that she would end her fast on August 9. She also announced that she would contest state elections in Manipur. In 2014, two parties asked her to stand in the national election, but she had declined the same at the time.
"I will end my fast on August 9 and contest elections on an independent ticket," Sharmila told the media after coming out of a local court here where she was facing a trial for attempting suicide.
"I will join politics and my fight will continue," Sharmila said.
Following the conclusion of her fast, Sharmila launched a political party named Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance and will contest from two assembly constituencies of Khurai and Khangabok, the home constituency of Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.