'World's Longest Hunger Strike' Is About to End

Irom Sharmila says her 16-year fast will end Aug. 9
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 28, 2016 3:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – Irom Sharmila hasn't eaten in 16 years. Since November 2000, the 44-year-old activist from Manipur, India, has been force-fed through a tube in her nose in a hospital prison cell as she protests the country's Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which gives security forces freedom to kill suspects in the northeast and Kashmir. But on Aug. 9, what is believed to be the world's longest hunger strike will come to an end. Sharmila—known as the Iron Lady of Manipur—says she will give up the fast, marry her fiancé, and enter politics to "get our voices heard," reports the Indian Express. "The government has not been listening to our voices and has been suppressing our movement," she says. State assembly elections will take place in February, reports Quartz. It is believed Sharmila will run as an independent candidate.

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NGO Human Rights Alert claims 1,528 people were executed in Manipur from 1979 to 2012 under AFSPA, which also gives the military power to conduct searches and arrests without warrants. On July 8, India's Supreme Court called for more information on the cases, noting security forces could be prosecuted. The AFSPA is "unsettling and demoralizing, particularly in a constitutional democracy like ours," the court said, per the Economic Times. "No one can act with impunity particularly when there is a loss of an innocent life." It isn’t clear when Sharmila might be released from custody. She's being held in a secure section of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal for "attempt to commit suicide," but as prisoners can't be held for more than a year without a trial, she is periodically released and rearrested. (Read more India stories.)

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