Twist in 12-Year Hunger Strike: Attempted Suicide Charge

India slaps charge on Irom Sharmila, who last voluntarily ate in 2000
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 5, 2013 7:17 AM CST
Twist in 12-Year Hunger Strike: Attempted Suicide Charge
India’s Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hunger strike for 12 years, speaks during a press conference in New Delhi, India, Monday, March 4, 2013.   (AP Photo/Tsering Topgyal)

The last time Irom Sharmila ate a meal by her own hand was Nov. 4, 2000. In the 12-plus years since, the 40-year-old Indian known as the "Iron Lady" has been on a hunger strike to protest India's Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives the military wide-ranging rights in restive regions and which human rights groups say has been used to torture and kill suspected rebels with impunity. She was arrested three days after that last meal and has been force-fed twice daily via a nose tube ever since—and yesterday, she was charged with attempted suicide, the AP reports.

Since her arrest, the government has been releasing her once every year, then taking her back into custody when she continues to refuse to eat—the Belfast Telegraph notes that she won't even use water to brush her teeth. The attempted suicide charge stems from a 2006 arrest at a New Delhi protest and subsequent hospitalization. In the hands of India's slow system, the incident has finally made its way in front of the court; it carries a sentence of up to one year in prison. "I will continue my fast until the Special Powers Act is withdrawn," she said yesterday at a court appearance as supporters outside demanded the act be repealed. "I love life. I do not want to take my life, but I want justice and peace." (Read more Irom Sharmila stories.)

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