Irom Chanu Sharmila, a prominent activist from India, ended on Tuesday a 16-year hunger strike. Sharmila broke her fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal.

The 44-year-old Indian activist, Irom Chanu Sharmila, decided on Tuesday to withdraw a protest she began almost 16 years ago. She put an end to her fast by licking honey from her hand and declaring that she will never forget that moment. In November 2000, Indian soldiers killed ten people in the village of Malom, near Imphal, a northeastern region of India. It was this first fact what made Sharmila start a revolution against the law shielding the military forces. In an attempt to protest, she tried to commit suicide, a crime in India, and she was detained for it.

Irom Chanu Sharmila hasn’t eaten since Nov. 2000, until today. Image Credit: AP Photo/Bullu Raj/Quartz

The law Ms. Sharmila is protesting protects soldiers from being prosecuted for rights violations committed on the Indian population. She remained under judicial custody for almost 16 years and declared herself in a hunger strike to protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act of 1958 (AFSPA). This law enables members of the military from prosecution in conflict-ridden parts of India.

No place to go

Once she got a bail from a judge on Tuesday, Ms. Sharmila said she did not know where to go or where she would live. She also stated that it seemed to be a difficult task since, by Tuesday night, she visited at least two different places to find herself turned away.

In fact, none of the supporters of her cause over the last decade could accommodate her. They consider that some organizations are questioning the withdrawal of her hunger strike. It might also be the reason why she did not receive the expected support while being in court on Tuesday.

“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 the official.

Manipur’s activists have a divided position toward Sharmila’s decision. According to the group rejecting the fast withdrawal, Indian electoral politics are not considered reliable among the population, and they believe that in the case Sharmila joins politics she would become a bureaucrat. They think that the cause she started almost 16 years ago represents a national protest against AFSPA.

Those who do not endorse Ms. Sharmila’s withdrawal, state that her revolution is incomplete since governmental authorities are not planning to repeal the legislation.

However, Amnesty International and many activists groups outside Manipur have expressed her support to the “Iron Lady.” Civil rights activist, Dr. Binayak Sen, called recent rejections towards Sharmila’s withdrawal as cynical. Dr. Sen believes it is a misconception regarding the protest she started years ago. Being recognized by international organizations as the byword of conscience in Manipur is the best example to show that her cause has had a significant impact in the country and beyond.

An official from Amnesty International India declared on Tuesday that Sharmila’s hunger strike is a portrayal of her passion for justice and human rights.

For now, Manipur’s police officers brought her to the Imphal City Police Station to spend the night.

Source: The Hindu