As Irom Sharmila turns 48, we look at her journey where she fasted for 16 years

Updated: Mar 14, 2020, 08:38 | Sherlin Rajan
  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    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.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    Irom grew up in Manipur and has suffered from insurgency and intra-tribal warfare, including terrorism and government-sponsored violence, for decades.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    She began her fast in 2000 in protest against 'Malon Massacre'. It so happened that 10 civilians were shot dead 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.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    Her primary demand to the Indian government was to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). She also vowed to not eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    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 has immunity and they cannot be prosecuted.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    Sharmila was arrested three days later 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.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    She met her mother only once since the beginning 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 She said, "The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother's hand."

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    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'.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    The National Human Rights Commission declared her as a 'Prisoner of Conscience'.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    Sharmila ended her fast on July 28, 2016 and announced her decision to enter politics to continue her fight for repealing the AFSPA Act

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    She formed a party - People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance in 2017 to contest the state assembly elections that year.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    Sharmila said she would take on Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh in his constituency Thoubal but lost miserably. She secured only 90 votes opposed to over 18,000 votes which Ibobi Singh secured.

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    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. The crusader gave birth to twin girls on May 14 2019, on Mother's Day. 

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  • Irom Chanu Sharmila

    She has kept her fight on and was last seen participating in the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act in Bengaluru with her husband and daughters.

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About The Gallery

As Irom Chanu Sharmila celebrates her 48th birthday today, here are some unknown facts about the Manipuri crusader who struggled to get the Armed Forces (Special Powers') Act repealed in the state.

(All photos: AFP)