Manipur activist Irom Sharmila has finally decided to break her fast. She was on an indefinite hunger strike for the last 15 years demanding removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from the state. Sharmila had begun her fast in November 2000 in protest against the killing of 10 people waiting at a bus stop in Malom.
The ‘extra judicial’ killings had shaken the state with many calling for the end of the ‘draconian’ AFSPA. Numbed by the brutality with which these people were killed, Sharmila decided to begin her fast which later turned out to be a campaign against AFSPA. In an interview to The Indian Express in 2014, Sharmila had said that she was so upset after the killing that she didn’t eat for days. She didn’t tell her mother that she was fasting. “At first, I thought, ‘Let me keep lying in bed’. I didn’t even tell my mother that I was still fasting,” she had said.
As she ends her fast, here are some lesser known facts about her:
# Irom Sharmila was the youngest of nine siblings. She wanted to become a doctor but gave up this dream as she realised she didn’t have the ‘brains’ for it. She could not clear her Class XII examination. She, however, did a course in journalism for six months. She also learnt stenography for a year.
# Sharmila was a volunteer at the Human Rights Alert in 2000. She was helping people affected by violence, compiling cases and taking part in protests and peace marches. And this was when the Malom massacre took place which changed her life forever.
WATCH VIDEO: Irom Sharmila To End 15-Year-Long Fast
# On the fourth day day of her fast, Sharmila attended a meeting. People at the meeting told her to take her fast into the public sphere. She returned home to get her mother’s blessings and then left her home. Before she started her fast, she ate sweets.
# Sharmila drew her love for animals and nature from her father Irom Nanda. Nanda, an attendant at the veterinary department of the state, was a great influence on her.
# Ever since Sharmila began her fast, she was forcibly fed through a nasal tube at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal. Her daily intake of calories was 1,600 which included Cerelac, juices like Appy, Horlicks and protein shakes.
# Sharmila was released every year for a day by the court, and promptly rearrested for attempt to suicide.
# In solidarity with Sharmila, an Australian woman in Vietnam fasts once every three months. She also writes to Sharmila regularly.