IMPHAL – Indian activist Irom Chanu Sharmila decided to suspend her hunger strike on August 9, 2016 that she began in November 2000, making her protest and hunger strike the longest in history.
Sharmila was protesting against the extrajudicial killings in the state of Manipur carried out by Indian paramilitary forces in November 2000. Her struggle also highlighted the Indian government’s human rights violations.
It is worth noting that AFSPA grants Indian armed forces the extrajudicial powers, which include searching properties without a warrant, arresting people, keeping them in prisons without trial for indefinite periods of time and even killing them.
Sharmila grew up and lives in Manipur, one of the Seven Sister states in India’s north-east, which has suffered from brutal Indian state counter-insurgency operations for decades; from 2005 to 2015 thousands of people died from political violence. Sharmila has been arrested many times for attempted suicide. The state was forcibly feeding her and the picture of her with plastic tubes has become iconic of the Manipur struggle.
She has decided to change the strategy. “I will contest elections with the agenda for the repeal of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act),” she said.
It should be particularly noted that brutal act AFSPA is only implemented in Indian-held Kashmir and seven north-eastern states including Assam. About 100,000 Kashmiris are suffering in Indian prisons without trial due to this inhumane law.
Sharmila was already involved in local peace movements with regard to human right abuses when ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop in November 2000. The incident, known as the ‘Malom Massacre’, was allegedly committed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state. The victims included Leisangbam Ibetombi, a 62-year-old woman, and 18-year-old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Bravery Award winner.
Bollywood movies Haider 2014, and Dil Se 1998 features the brutal impact of AFSPA and the maltreatment of Indian Para-military forces in conflict ridden regions like Kashmir and North-Eastern States.
– Tazeen Hasan, Correspondent (Asia: South)