Irom Sharmila’s 16-year fast ends today

IMPHAL: On Tuesday, Irom Sharmila Chanu will end her 16-year-long fast against the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.

Sharmila, known as the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’, announced on July 26 that she would end her fast and contest next year’s Manipur assembly election. She also hinted that she would marry her boyfriend Desmond Coutinho, an India-born British national, and resume normal life.

On Tuesday, Sharmila (44) will be produced before the court of the chief judicial magistrate in Imphal West. The judge is expected to order her release after she makes clear her intention to end her fast.

Sharmila’s family said they were ready to welcome her in their Imphal East residence, but were unsure if she would come home. “We heard sources that she will not come home on Tuesday. However, we have made arrangements, including a separate room for her,” said Sharmila’s elder brother Irom Singhajit.

Singhahit and mother Sakhi Devi, refused to comment on Sharmila’s decision to end her fast. Singhajit, who had left his job with a prominent NGO to support his sister’s campaign, said, “I’ll give my views after Sharmila’s release. I will go to court to hear what she says.”

The state government had not allowed Sharmila’s family to meet her at JNIMS hospital where she was kept in custody and force-fed, he said.

Demanding the repeal of AFSPA, Sharmila began her fast on November 5, 2000, two days after Assam Rifles personnel shot dead 10 civilians, including a national child bravery award winner, in Malom, Imphal West.