India activist to end hunger strike after 16 years, contest polls

Indian human rights campaigner Irom Sharmila on Tuesday announced she would end her 16-year hunger strike against a controversial national security law.

The 44-year-old activist from the north-eastern state of Manipur told a local court that she would end her fast on August 9 and will contest assembly elections as an independent next year.

"For years she was raising the issue but the state was not listening," her friend and fellow campaigner Babloo Loitongbam told reporters. "She wanted to change the turf of the struggle and move from being a lone hunger striker and enter the political arena."

Sharmila began her protest demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act on November 2, 2000, after 10 civilians were killed by security forces in insurgency-hit Manipur.

The legislation gives Indian armed forces special powers of search and seizure and protects them from prosecution for abuses.

Sharmila has been force-fed through a nasal tube for more than a decade. She has been arrested, released and re-arrested from time to time on charges of making an attempt to commit suicide and has to mark attendance in court every 15 days.

She has been in judicial custody, confined to a state-run hospital in the Manipur capital, Imphal. Her protest has gained international recognition with Sharmila becoming the face of resistance against the alleged atrocities by the armed forces in disturbed areas in India.

Human rights groups say the law has been misused by security forces in areas affected by militancy such as Jammu and Kashmir and north-eastern states.

Last update: Tue, 26/07/2016 - 15:19
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