1. Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike since Nov 2000, surpassing Gandhi or Anna Hazare’s records. M.K. Gandhi undertook 17 fasts in his lifetime, longest one lasting for 21 days. Anna Hazare, who has taken more than 15 fasts, hold record for 12 days. Irom Sharmila has not eaten a morsel of food for the last 13 years.
2. Irom Sharmila is on hunger strike is to protest against and to repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – AFSPA. This controversial Act, imposed in Manipur, J&K and few other North East States gives impunity (exemption from punishment) to the Armed Forces. Many fake killings, kidnappings, rapes & encounters have been reported (upto 1500 cases reported as per some figures) and not a single case has been lodged yet.
3. Irom Sharmila was arrested by the Govt of Manipur in 2000 and was charged with ‘attempting to commit suicide,’ a criminal offence under Indian Law. Labelling her peaceful protest as ‘suicide attempt’ is a serious attempt to move away attention from the core reason of her protest. Her only demand is to repeal a draconian and undemocratic law like AFSPA
4. India- world’s largest democracy has imposed AFSPA in Manipur since 1980. This Act came into existence during British rule, give an Armed Force a statutory right to kill on mere suspicion. Irom Sharmila began her fast shortly after some members of Assam Rifles shot dead 10 civilians waiting at a bus stop in Malom, Manipur. None of the officers were punished, nor would they ever be.
5. RTI filed by Save Sharmila Campaign revealed that National Human Rights Commission never paid any visit to Irom Sharmila or to the victims of AFSPA in the first 12 years of her fast. Their first visit was conducted in Oct 2013. A failed attempt to believe in ‘Out of sight, Out of mind’ concept, our Govt has shown the same insensitivity in dealing with Irom Sharmilas peaceful protest of 13 years as it has shown for AFSPA victims
6. Irom Sharmila is being detained in a security ward, JLN Hospital in Imphal, Manipur. There is no judicial mandate for enforced isolation, which India’s National Human Rights Commission has also acknowledged. Each day she spends in custody is a bleak reminder of the status of our country’s human rights records.
7. In Feb 2012, Supreme Court of India, in association with the Ram Lila Maidan case, observed that hunger strikes is ‘historically and legally accepted form of protest’. In a country which preaches values of non-voilence to the world, Irom Sharmila is being force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose.
8. Attempting to commit suicide is a bailable offence in India, with maximum punishment up to one year imprisonment. Irom Sharmila has religiously declined bail, as she believes she has done no offence to seek bail. Every year, after completing a year in judicial custody, she is released only to be re-arrested as she continues her fast.
9. Compared to the fasts conducted in our national capital, Irom Sharmila has been largely ignored by Indian media and Govt. She has however, received a lot of international attention, further distorting our nation’s crumbling image in human rights records. Manipuri Mothers and Shirin Ibadi (Nobel Peace Prize Winners) have also extended their support towards Irom Sharmila. No major political party has extended their support yet.
10. “I fast until the AFSPA goes. I have not wasted 12 years of my life to back off. Either my people live with respect or I don’t eat,” – Irom Sharmila, on completing 12 years of her fast.
If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything.