Manipur’s human rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila resumed her hunger strike in protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (Afpsa) after a magistrate court ordered her release from judicial custody on Monday.
Sharmila has been on a fast-unto-death for the past 15 years, demanding the repealing of Afspa. She was arrested under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code on charges of attempt to commit suicide. Held at a prison hospital, she was force-fed through the nose several times a day.
Referred to as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Sharmila continued her often interrupted hunger strike at Saheed Minar, accompanied by women activists of ‘Sharmila Kanba Lup’ (Save Sharmila Committee).
The 43-year-old began her non-violent protest in November 2000 after 10 people were killed by troops of the Assam Rifles near a bus stop at Malom, in the outskirt of Imphal.
The Afspa 1958, which covers large parts of northeastern India and Kashmir, gives security forces sweeping powers to search and shoot on sight, and is seen by critics as a cover for human rights abuses.
Speaking to media at the court complex in Imphal, Sharmila said, “Now I will continue my agitation at Saheed Minar till my goal is achieved. I still have the confidence that truth will prevail one day.”
On August 19 2014, a Sessions court in Imphal had ordered her release, dismissing the prosecution’s charge that she was attempting to commit suicide. But Sharmila was re-arrested few days later on the grounds of securing her life.