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The “Iron Lady of Manipur” Ends World’s Longest Hunger Strike

at 5:28 pm | By

One spoonful ended it all

For 16 years, Irom Sharmila, a frail activist from the northeastern side of India, has denied herself food. She has been on a hunger strike since 2000 after ten civilians were allegedly killed by Indian soldiers while waiting at a Manipur bus stop. The government claimed the massacre was a retaliation but there was no evidence. Since then, Sharmila has been fighting India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), an act which gives the military the power to search, detain, and kill civilians.

As a result of her fight, she has refused to eat for 16 years. How’d she survive? She was fed through a nasal tube the government used to force feed her. But on Tuesday, she realized that her hunger strike was in vain. “I went on a fast for about 16 years thinking I could change the system, but I now realize that this will not yield any result,” she said. And after years and years of fighting, Irom Sharmila decided to give up. But she’s not throwing her towel in just yet. She’s prepared to fight a fair fight.

Sharmila talks to media after appearing before a District and Sessions Judge at Imphal West court in Imphal on August 9, 2016

Credit: BIJU BORO/Stringer/Getty Images

The 44-year-old ate on her own for the first time and revealed that she will be doing THIS next…

Eating For The First Time

Irom Sharmila Chanu (R) also known as the 'Iron Lady of Manipur' or 'Mengoubi' (meaning 'the fair one') to an ambulance as she leaves The Magistrate's Court in Imphal

Credit: AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

In front of reporters, Sharmila smiled then cried as she took in a spoonful of honey, the first thing she has eaten in 16 years. “I will never forget this moment,” she said after being freed from the nasal tube.

Earning Her Freedom

Irom Chanu Sharmila (L) lies down as she is attended to by her supporters at a hunger strike protest in New Delhi on October 6, 2006

Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Because of her decision to eat willingly, she also earned back her freedom. After 14 arrests for trying to commit suicide through hunger strikes, she was placed in judicial custody at a hospital. The federal laws in Imphal suggests that attempted suicide is illegal. Since she didn’t want to eat on her own, officials from the government force-fed her through a nasal drip.