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Irom Sharmila Ends Her 16-Year-Long Fast, Wants To Be The Manipur Chief Minister

“I have been fasting for 16 years and not got anything from it."

09/08/2016 5:01 PM IST | Updated 09/08/2016 6:05 PM IST
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Irom Chanu Sharmila, ended her fast on Tuesday.

Almost 16 years after she started a hunger strike, India's "Iron Lady", Irom Chanu Sharmila, ended her fast on Tuesday.

News channels flashed visuals of an emotional Sharmila, who licked honey from her palm to end her fast.

Sharmila now wants to start a new life. One that will include politics and marriage.

The 44-year old campaigner, detained under a law that makes attempting suicide illegal, has become a symbol of resistance against state violence in Manipur. For 16 years she didn't eat in protest against alleged army atrocities in Manipur.

"I am not a goddess. I want to be Chief Minister of Manipur," she said.

"I know nothing about politics, and about academic line also. My education is very very low," she added.

She left the prison hospital this morning. There, she spent years being force-fed through a plastic tube after being arrested for attempted suicide.

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Irom Sharmila broke down in tears as she was finally released from a hospital jail.

"I have been fasting for 16 years and not got anything from it. I want to try different agitation now — one that will see me contest against the Chief Minister of the State," Sharmila said. She said that this will be her new way to repeal AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act) from the state.

Meanwhile, for a section of her supporters and family, the end of the long fast came as a surprise and a disconcerting one.

READ: Many Questions Remain About The Fate Of Irom Sharmila

According to this Indian Express report, no one in her family is happy about her decision. In fact, they were not aware of Sharmila's decision till they read her statement in a vernacular newspaper.

"Sharmila was not like this before. Her mind has changed ever since the jailors gave her a laptop. The laptop changed her," said Ima Mamon.

Mamon has been a supporter of Sharmila and protesting against the AFSPA in Manipur with her.

"Of course she is allowed to get married — but after AFSPA is repealed. She is known as the Iron Lady of Manipur and has won the Guangzhou award because of the fasting," she added.

Among those disappointed with her decision is also her 84-year-old mother, Irom Sakhi.

"I have waited for the last 16 years. Every day, I prayed that Sharmila be successful in her mission. I had told her that the day AFSPA is repealed from Manipur, I will feed her the first morsel of food with my own hands. That is all I have to say," she told Indian Express.

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Irom Sakhi Devi, 84, mother of Indian activist Irom Sharmila, holds and cleans a portrait of her daughter as media persons interview her at her home in Imphal. She is disappointed with Sharmila's decision.

However, Sharmila has made up her mind. She said that she wants to marry.

For years, she has exchanged letters with Desmond Coutinho, a Goa-based British citizen.

"This is my life. I want equality," she told reporters after breaking her fast.

Through years of arrests and rearrests on charges of attempt to commit suicide, Irom drew the international media to her state's plight and the Malom Massacre that sealed her fate in 2000. On 2 November, 2000, 10 Indians were shot dead, allegedly by the Assam Rifles, in Manipur's Malom town. Irom, who was 28 at that time, began her fast in protest against the army atrocity.

The court, which has repeatedly tried her for attempted suicide, allowed her to sign a bail bond of Rs 10,000. However, it has not issued a release order yet, which means she is still in judicial custody.

The next hearing in the case is scheduled for August 23.

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