After being on fast for the last 16 years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, Manipur's 'Iron Lady' Irom Chanu Sharmila is all set to end her fast today. According to her brother Irom Singhajit, the 44-year-old iconic rights activist, who was forcibly fed through a nasal tube since 2000 to keep her alive at a prison-turned-hospital, will break her fast at a local court in Imphal.
"She will be produced before a judicial magistrate tomorrow and the court will release her from judicial custody after she breaks her fast as she had announced a fortnight ago," he said on Monday. Though a large number of her supporters and women activists under the forum of Sharmila Kunba Lup will be meeting her as she starts her new journey, Sharmila's 84-year-old mother Shakhi Devi will be conspicuous by her absence.
"She will not go there to meet her. She is waiting for the moment of her victory which will come only when AFSPA is repealed," Singhajit, who will be present at the courtroom today, said. The family and her supporters, who have not been able to meet her since July 26 when she announced her decision to end her fast and enter politics to ensure that AFSPA is repealed through political means, have no idea where she is going to stay from now on.
"We don't know where she will go after her release. If she wants to come home and stay with us, we are ready to welcome her. But it is her desire," her brother said. Local activist Kshetrimayum Onil, who has been associated with Ms Sharmila for a long time, said they tried many times but failed to meet her to discuss the future strategy on AFSPA. "The government rules say that to meet her we have to apply at least one month before. We tried but failed to set up a meeting," he said.
Her brother also said he is waiting to meet Sharmila today to discuss future strategies. Doctors attending Sharmila said she might have to be kept on a liquid diet for the next few days as her body might not be able to digest solid food all of a sudden. "A person who has not eaten solid food for 16 years cannot start it suddenly. She has to start slowly and gradually in small quantities," they said.
"Her condition is okay as she has been getting all nutrients. She can walk also," Dr Laishram Deben, director of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences Hospital, said. Sharmila's struggle has been the nucleus of all protests against AFSPA in Manipur and the neighbouring north-eastern states.
On November 2, 2000, an Assam Rifles battalion had allegedly killed 10 civilians in a village near Imphal. Three days later, Sharmila embarked on her fast demanding revocation of AFSPA, which allows security men to even kill a person on suspicion without the fear of facing a trial in court.