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Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Irom Sharmila: India hunger striker freed after 13 years

[Irom Sharmila has been on hunger strike for more than 13 years.© Amnesty International]

Indian activist Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on a hunger strike for 14 years, has been freed following a court order.

Ms Chanu said she was happy to be freed but would continue her fast.

She began her hunger strike in 2000 to protest against a controversial law in the state of Manipur, which gave the Indian armed forces sweeping powers.

She was arrested shortly after her protest began and put in a hospital and force-fed through a pipe in her nose.

On Tuesday, a court in the state capital, Imphal, rejected the charge that she was “attempting to commit suicide” and ordered her release.

For nearly 14 years, Ms Chanu has been held in judicial custody in a hospital in Manipur’s capital, Imphal.

As she walked out of the hospital on Wednesday evening, she was mobbed by a group of reporters who asked her how it felt to breathe fresh air after so many years.

“It’s refreshing,” she said, smiling.

Ms Chanu said she did not “want people singing my glory, I want them to support my cause”.

The activist said she would not call off her fast until the government agreed to her demand to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) which gives soldiers sweeping powers to arrest people without warrants and even shoot to kill in certain situations.

“It’s a draconian law, there are lots of widows in Manipur because of this law,” she said.

Ms Chanu began a hunger strike after 10 civilians were killed by Indian soldiers.

Her protest has won her worldwide recognition, with Amnesty International describing her as a prisoner of conscience.


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