Manipuri rights activist Irom Sharmila, who has been demanding the repeal of controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), has decided to break her fast of 16 years and will fight elections.
The 44-year-old told a district court in Manipur today that she will end her fast on August 9.
“I will break my fast as the government has failed to give any positive response… I will fight elections to resolve the issues,” she said.
She also informed the court – where she is required to mark attendance every 15 days – that she wants to marry.
Irom decided to not eat a morsel of food further after a contingent of the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians in a bus stop at Malom in 2000. Her demand was that AFSPA, a draconian rule that allows for the Indian army to have punitive powers, be taken out of Manipur.
Three days after she started her fast, in November 2000, Irom was first arrested under the charge of attempt to commute suicide under the IPC. She has been arrested dozens of times since.
Earlier this month, the Supreme Court strongly rebuked the army, saying it cannot use “excessive or retaliatory force” even in troubled areas. With regards to Manipur, it said the situation was never a “war-like” threat to national security that warranted the act.
The apex court further directed a thorough probe into the alleged fake encounter killings there.
In December 2014, the Centre decriminalised “attempt to suicide” by deleting the relevant section, effectively dismissing the case against Sharmila. Then, this year in March, the Delhi court acquitted the Manipuri in an ‘attempt to suicide’ case filed against her in 2006 for holding a fast-unto-death protest at Jantar Mantar.
Irom Sharmila had earlier rejected Aam Aadmi Party’s offer to contest Lok Sabha elections under its banner from the inner Manipur Lok Sabha seat in 2014.