Everything You Should Know About Manipur’s Iron Lady Irom Sharmila

The iconic social and political rights’ activist Irom Chanu Sharmila is known for carrying out the “longest hunger strike” against law and the military men. Back in 2000, at the age of 28, she had the courage to stand against the injustice and demand for the righteousness that their state deserved and is stood on her promises till date. Due to the lack of fair opportunities and desired results, she has now decided to end her hunger strike on 9th August, 2016.

Here are some lesser known facts about her that each of you must know.

From Where It Began

Irom Sharmila was just another activist who was involved with local peace movements regarding human rights abuses in Manipur until one Thursday. On 2nd November, 2000, the armed men of Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces then- operating in the state, shot 10 civilians waiting at the bus stop in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley. Amongst those 10 people, there was an 18-year old kid who was rewarded in 1988 with the National Child Bravery Award. That incident, known as the Malom Massacre, gave a new outlook to her life as she began fasting against the army atrocities in Manipur.

It was 5th of November of that year when she vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look into the mirror until her primary demand; to officially cancel the Armed Forces (Super Powers) Act (AFSPA) was fulfilled. The AFSPA allows the armed forces to arrest people and search their property without a warrant and also to use lethal weapons against anyone with “reasonable suspicion” about them acting against the state. Irom Sharmila demanded the law and order to repeal the act completely.

Irom Sharmila

Failed Attempts

Her fast for justice was charged against her as an attempt to suicide and therefore, she was arrested within the 3 days after her strike began. From November 21st, she was force fed through the nasogastric intubation (since she refused to be forced fed) in order to keep her alive.

Throughout her strike, she has been arrested, released and re-arrested multiple times for the same allegation of attempting to kill herself because under the legal system of India, it is a crime to kill yourself but the alleged cannot be imprisoned for more than a year. By 2004, she became an icon of public resistance. While in Delhi, in the year 2006, she wrote letters to the Prime Minister, the President and the Home Minister and also had a chance to meet Nobel-laureate Shirin Ebadi, the Nobel Laureate and human rights activist, who promised to take up Sharmila’s cause at the United Nations Human Rights Council. All through the years, many politicians supported her struggle but no significant action was taken to remove the AFSPA.

Irom Sharmila


  • The people of Manipur call her Mengoubi which means the “the fair one”.
  • In 2007, she was awarded with the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights which is given to a person who gives outstanding support in the promotion of democracy, peace and human rights.
  • In 2010, the Asian Human Rights Commission awarded her with a lifetime achievement award.
  • She was also awarded with the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize and was declared as the Top Women Icon of India.

Irom Sharmila


Current Situation

Even after going through the intense struggle all these years of her life, this powerful woman did not break or bend against any injustice. But since, AFSPA has not been repealed in 15 years of her strike; she realizes it won’t happen in the next 30. Therefore, Sharmila announced that she will be terminating her fast on August 9. Her decision took everyone, including her family and associates, by surprise. Irom has not met her mother since she began the strike because she knew that meeting her would make her weak.

Future Plans

Irom Sharmila has decided to take forward her fight with the system by being a part of the system. She plans to contest the upcoming Manipur elections as an independent candidate and she also wishes to marry her long-term boyfriend, Desmond Coutinho, a 52-year old writer and activist whom she met in March 2011 after a year-long exchange of letters.


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Ashmita is an ardent writer who loves to cover the emotions and write about facts, lifestyle and travel, her hobbies include reading and dancing. She is a fun-loving person whose sole purpose is to explore life as it follows. An appreciator of whimsical humor.