Know the 'Iron Lady of Manipur' - Irom Sharmila

Updated: Mar 14, 2019, 12:10 IST | mid-day online correspondent |

As the world's longest hunger striker Irom Chanu Sharmila celebrates her 47th birthday today, here are some facts which you may not know about the 'Iron Lady of Manipur'

Irom Chanu Sharmila. Pic/AFP
Irom Chanu Sharmila. Pic/AFP

Irom Chanu Sharmila is the political and human rights activist from Manipur who fasted for 16 years as part of her struggle to get the Armed Forces Special Powers Act repealed in the state. Here are some facts about her that you may not be aware of

  • Irom Chanu Sharmila is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from Manipur who is known for her hunger strike for more than 16 years.
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila grew up in Manipur and has suffered from Insurgency and intra-tribal warfare, including terrorism and government-sponsored violence, for decades.
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila began her fast in the year 2000 in protest against 'Malon Massacre'. It so happened that ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur. It was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state.
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila's primary demand to the Indian government has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). She also vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed. The Act allows an officer of the armed forces powers to arrest without warrant anyone or even shoot a person who is suspected to be acting against law and order in an area declared as disturbed by the Governor in the north-east. The army enjoys immunity and they cannot be prosecuted.
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila was arrested three days after her fast and charged with an 'attempt to suicide' but after that she has been regularly released and re-arrested every year since her hunger strike began.
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila has only met her mother once since the start of the fast as seeing her mother's anguish may break her resolve. She said, "The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother's hand."
  • Irom Chanu 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'.
  • The National Human Rights Commission declared Irom Chanu Sharmila as a 'Prisoner of Conscience'.
  • Irom Sharmila formed a party - People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance in 2017 to contest the Assembly elections. She said she would take on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in his constituency Thoubal but lost miserably as she secured only 90 votes opposed to 18k plus which Ibobi Singh secured.
  • In 2017, Irom Chanu Sharmila married her lover Desmond Coutinho in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu. The low-key ceremony was held at the sub-registrar's office in the hill station in Dindugal district.

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