Irom Sharmila has not eaten a meal for more than 12 years. Her hunger strike, aimed at stopping the bloody conflict between militants and the state, is the world’s longest.
She faces a court appearance later this month “for attempting to commit suicide”. Ms Sharmila has denied the charges against her saying, “I am protesting by non-violence at my best level”.
The 41-year-old started her fast on 3 November 2000, a day after 10 people, waiting at a bus stop in the town of Malom, Manipur, were shot dead by paramilitary forces.
Ms Sharmila, the youngest of five brothers and four sisters, was deeply disturbed by the killings. The following day she spoke with her mother and – having asked for her blessing – announced that she was launching a fast. She was arrested for the first time soon after. that
Three times a day, for 12 years, nurses have poured a liquefied mixture of vitamins, carbohydrates, proteins and laxatives into a plastic feeding-tube through her nose. Her hospital ward has been converted into a jail.
Her fast has caused her to stop menstruating, while some reports say her internal organs have been damaged.
Ms Sharmila’s hope is to get the government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a draconian piece of legislation that the federal authorities started applying to India’s seven “disturbed” north-eastern states in 1958. The act gives the armed forces the right to arrest people and enter any building without a warrant and “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law”.