Irom Sharmila Chanu – The Iron Lady of Manipur

Irom Sharmila Chanu

How far can you go chasing your cause? Well, 16 years is a huge time. Irom Sharmila Chanu had practised hunger strikes throughout these 16 years. All this started in 2000 after the Malom Massacre when 10 innocent civilians including a 62-year-old woman and an 18-year-old youth who won the 1998 National Bravery Award. This incident made her determined about her next plan of action. She demonstrated a hunger strike in Manipur for repelling the draconian law named Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 which gave rights to the security forces to carry out search operations as and when they want, over any property without any warrant. It also gave them the right to arrest anyone they find a suspect and use deadly force on the individual. Just between 2005 to 2015, there have been more than 5500 deaths of the local people in the North-Eastern region due to political violence.

Much was done, now she demanded absolute repelling of the draconian law that gave massive powers for misuse to the forces. In Mahabharata, we find the character of Draupadi who refused to comb her hair or tie it till she avenges the ones who had humiliated her in an open court. Irom Sharmila Chanu too made a firm decision of staying in hunger and refused to intake rice or even water! She even decided to stop visiting her mother because she felt that her mother’s concerns can turn her spirit weak. She was jailed innumerable times right after her release because she used to get back to protest right after her release. She was arrested regularly on charges of trying to commit suicide. She did not feed anything and was force-fed with nasogastric intubation in jail.

She has been a receiver of many awards for her tough spirit. She finally broke her world’s longest hunger strike in 2017 to contest elections in the state to give a tougher fight against the AFSPA. In 2017 she tied nuptial knots with Desmond Coutinho in Kodaikanal of Tamil Nadu and is now blessed with two twin daughters. Her life is marked with a plethora of events with the majority representing the unbearable mental strength behind this Iron Lady that made her continue fighting for her cause even at the cost of her health.

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