A brief recounting
Human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila will end her 16-year-long hunger strike, one of the longest in world, against an Indian controversial law that gives special powers to the Indian armed forces in areas affected by insurgency. She now plans to contest the 2017 elections in her state Manipur in north-east India as an independent candidate.
Called the Iron Lady of Manipur, the 44-year-old has been on a fast since 2000 to protest the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a law gives Indian soldiers powers and legal immunity to shoot to kill, conduct raids and arrest people without warrants.
Sharmila will finally conclude her hunger strike on August 9. In the last decade-and-half, she was mostly fed through a nasal tube and lived under house arrest at a government hospital in Manipur’s state capital Imphal. She has been charged under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code for attempting suicide. As the maximum punishment under this law is one year, she has been periodically arrested, released and then arrested again. Her quiet protest has drawn global attention, and Sharmila has been given numerous international human rights awards. In 2013, Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of Conscience.
When it came to this particular issue, I had points of action that I agreed and disagreed with. Her previous method of starvation to revoke the AFSPA didn’t quite sit well with me, as it was an option that should’ve been changed into one that would give immediate, direct results. This I thought could be more successfully achieved by her recent decision to fight for her cause by contesting in the coming elections. However, the discussion in class lead me to see it in a new light. Even though her silent protest didn’t result in the government budging about the repeal, it undeniably set off a monumental trigger in the hearts of the public, the evidence of which emerged as various art forms, both tangible and intangible. To inspire and move one person, let alone hundreds, is an act worth commending.
The fact that she moved onto a newer strategy, shows that her practice is ever-changing and sensitive to the situation at that moment.