Indian activist ends 16-year hunger strike

  • 10/08/2016
Irom Sharmila (Reuters)
Irom Sharmila (Reuters)

The world's longest hunger strike has ended after 16 years.

Indian human rights campaigner Irom Sharmila tasted food for the first time since the year 2000 by taking a lick of honey.

Ms Sharmila, 44, began her hunger strike after 10 civilians were killed in her home state of Manipur in 2000 by soldiers who enjoy wide powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight under a colonial era law that is still in existence in parts of India.

She had been force-fed by drip while in police custody, charged with attempting suicide.

A court granted her bail after she agreed to break her hunger strike.

Ms Sharmila's decision to end her protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) comes at a time when the federal government has asked its forces to exercise restraint in responding to protests in disputed Kashmir, a northern state where the army has shoot-to-kill powers to fight militants.

At least 46 people have been killed and more than 5000 wounded, including security forces, since protests erupted after the killing of a commander of Kashmiri separatist group Hizbul Mujahideen on July 8 in Kashmir.

Despite calls from judicial authorities and human rights groups, the federal government has kept in force the anti-terror law in parts of northeast India and mainly-Muslim Kashmir to contain insurgencies.

Ms Sharmila's protest has won her worldwide recognition, with Amnesty International describing her as a prisoner of conscience.

"Sharmila will fight the battle to free the state from the clutches of the army on the streets of Manipur," said Babloo Loitongbam, a close associate of Sharmila.

Newshub. / Reuters