Irom Sharmila Chanu – India

She is one of the 1000 women proposed for the Nobel Peace Price 2005.

Irom Chanu Sharmila (born 1970), also known as Sharmila Chanu, is an Indian woman activist of Meitei Manipuri heritage, known for her campaign against the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, colloquially known as the AFSPA. Manipur was, like many other princely states, annexed by the Indian Union in 1949 under disputed circumstances; there have been sporadic separatist movements since. Chanu has been on a hunger strike demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, on November 2, 2000, after soldiers of the Indian Paramilitary Assam Rifles allegedly killed ten young Meitei men in Malom. Three days later, police arrested Sharmila on charges of “attempted suicide”, suicide or attempted suicide being unlawful under Indian laws, and she was later transferred to judicial custody. (full text).

Imphal – Irom Sharmila Chanu – the “Iron Lady” who has been taking up fast-unto-death agitation since the year 2000 against the Armed Forces Special Power Act AFSPA), has decided to publish her 6 poems for the general public today … (full text, October 16, 2007).

Irom Sharmila Chanu - India 80p.jpg.

Irom Sharmila Chanu – India

She says: “Although the State may think so, I am in no mood for suicide. In any case, if I were a suicide-monger, how could we talk like this? I have no other choice but fasting” … and: “I had gone there (to Malom) to attend a meeting. The meeting was towards planning a peace rally that would be held in a few days. I was very shocked to see the dead bodies on the front pages of the newspapers. That strengthened me to step on this very threshold of death. Because there was no other means to stop further violations by the armed forces against innocent people. I thought then, that the peace rally would be meaningless for me. Unless I were to do something to change the situation” … and: “I realise my task is a tough one. But I must endure. I must be patient. That happy day will come some day. If I’m still alive. Until then, I must be patient. (My time was over, and my crew and I were preparing to leave, when Sharmila stopped us.) Will you help me? I would like to read about the life-history of Nelson Mandela. I have no idea about his life. Will you send me a book about him? It is full of restrictions here. Make sure you address it to the security ward. If not, I may not recieve it” … (full interview).

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New private ward. All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi. As you enter the building, about a dozen policemen and intelligence personnel stop you. After seeking permission from a reluctant inspector, about five suspicious and armed policemen stationed at the door of room number 57 carry on the interrogation and more questions follow. (full long text, 17 November, 2006).



Young, stoic and dogged, Irom Sharmila has been on a fast-unto-death since November, 2000. She wants the repressive Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act repealed. The Act gives draconian powers to the security forces and has repeatedly been used with brazen brutality in the Northeast. For five years, she has been imprisoned and force-fed by the State for her ‘crime’. Filmmaker Kavita Joshi spoke to her in the hospital room in Imphal, her prison. Interview on (Mar 25 , 2006).

Read also:

Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a study in National Security tyranny, not dated.

An analysis of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, (March 2005).

Repeal Armed Forces Special Power act, by Pushkar Raj and Mahipal Singh, 13 August 2004.

Description of AFSPA on wikipedia.

a fact sheet, Oct. 9, 2006.

Briefing: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act AFSPA – Review Committee takes one step forward and two backwards, Nov. 23, 2006. Same, as pdf-text on AI Index ASA 20/031/2006, Nov. 2006.

To: Government of India, Petition for the Repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, not dated.

Many articles about the theme on

1000PeaceWomen): Irom Sharmila Chanu (born 1972) is the youngest of Shanti Devi and the late Irom Nanda Singh’s nine children. A confident child, Sharmila channeled her grief about the death of her father, a veterinary attendant, into social service. She studied up to Class XII, but decided not to sit for the examinations, convinced that she had imbibed the skills of reading and writing, and needed no more.

She started writing occasionally for the local vernacular daily Huiyen Lanpao, which carried news of conflicts and other happenings within battle-scarred Manipur. Irom also attended developmental workshops, and she started writing poetry in the local Meitei dialect. Determined to be independent, she rode to meetings and discussions on her bicycle.

Sharmila was also deeply concerned about the impact of the unremitting daily violence on the lives of women, and she volunteered for human rights workshops. One of the important events she attended was the People’s Tribunal of Justice Suresh in October 2000, a people’s court to investigate the nature of human rights violations in Manipur. Sharmila volunteered her services as an intern at the workshop, during which she was witness to the testimony of Mercy Kabui of Lamdam, who was raped by the paramilitary Central Reserve Police Force personnel in front of her father-in-law. The shock and turmoil this experience engendered in harmila became crucial to her future course of action in November 2000.

In 1997, she lost her eldest brother, her family’s breadwinner. She began teaching herself nature cure, yoga, and shorthand. Every morning she read the Bhagwat Gita, which catalyzed her quest into the essence of spiritualism, and perhaps her concerns about peace. She did not concerned about dressing up, adornments, or cosmetics, to the extent that only once in her life has she worn the traditional Meitei attire – for a relative’s wedding. Her family were not overly worried about what they saw as her “eccentricities”, believing that her frugal lifestyle was influenced by her relationship with nature, her inner convictions about compassion and love, and her abiding faith in her own people and culture.

Irom pointedly did not seek attention – the audience for her newspaper columns was incidental – for her poetic jottings. But her sudden decision to undertake a fast-unto-death jolted the state into a certain isquietude.

On 2 November 2000, she finally made her move to protest against the Malom massacre in Manipur, where the Assam Rifles forces shot dead 11 civilians. Her steadfast demand remains, that the unconscionable Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA), which has been in force in Manipur since 1980, be repealed. But the State reaction was knee-jerk: it arrested her on charges of attempted suicide (under Section 309 of the obsolete Indian Penal Code).

The AFPSA gives the security forces almost unfettered powers to search, arrest, or kill people. Counterinsurgency has been a fact in Manipur for almost three decades. There have been innumerable human rights violations by the State’s security forces. Encounters between security personnel and non-State forces have resulted in a spillover of violence into the non-combat civilian domain. The security forces have taken to firing indiscriminately at civilians spotted during counterinsurgency operations, and hundreds have been killed in crossfire.

When a magisterial inquiry was instituted to look into the now-eponymous Malom massacre, the armed forces moved the Guwahati High Court and obtained a stay on the proceedings of the inquiry. The matter remains pending before the uwahati High Court.

Since her arrest on charges of attempted suicide, Irom has been released twice, only to be rearrested soon after. Although she continues on a fast, the state administration force-feeds her through a nasal feeding routine. The absurdity is that she is lies supine in the security ward of the J N Hospital, Porompat, Imphal–in judicial custody. Her interactions with people, the media, and human rights activists are seriously securitized. All visits are monitored.

But she remains clear about her goals. Three state governments – and even a period of President’s Rule – have failed to honorably resolve the legitimate demands Sharmila raised on behalf of the people of Manipur. The economy of the state is in the doldrums; unemployment is climbing, and there have been little or no opportunities for peaceful development. The state agencies are hobbled by political parties and individuals embroiled in infighting for power and self-aggrandizement. And there are those who say that Sharmila herself is being used by politicians and political parties. They have made rousing public promises to remove the “black laws”, but have then ignored Sharmila after the elections are over and done with.

In February 2004, Sharmila filed a Writ Petition to the Supreme Court of India challenging her detention. The apex court asked her to file the petition in the High Court, which disposed of the Writ Petition post-haste, releasing her. Two days later, though, the government rearrested her on fresh charges.

Sharmila’s action is a unique variant to the women’s movement against the long-term State terror in Manipur. Manipur’s traditional women’s groups, the Meira Paibi, or ‘torch bearers’, have stood by Sharmila. Even the administrative staff of the Government Central Jail is caught between empathy with Sharmila and their jobs.

However, except for the Meira Paibis’ continued moral support and vigil over her, people have not been able to intervene on her behalf. Over the years of privation, her natural physiological state has been impaired. She is only 32 years old, but has stopped menstruating, and her locomotive capacities have worsened to the extent that she cannot walk or move about without assistance. Her older brother, Irom Singhjit, has lost his job as an agricultural officer at the Citizen Volunteer Training Centre, but he continues to support her mission in the face of acute economic hardship.

Two women, Memcha and Pakpi, were inspired to follow Sharmila’s fast unto death. But they were persuaded to withdraw, since they have children.

Alone and weakening by the day, Sharmila remains an intrepid symbol of how far Gandhian resolve can stretch. (1000PeaceWomen).

UPDATE (in german, auf 1000PeaceWomen, vom 14. August 2007: Sharmila’s Gesundheit verschlechtert sich zusehends, sie fastet nun seit 7 Jahren. Die Regierung geht nicht auf ihre Forderung ein, den Armed Forces Special Powers Act abzuschaffen, und isoliert sie stattdessen von der Aussenwelt und erschwert somit ihren friedlichen Kampf.

Second UPDATE in german, auf 1000PeaceWomen, vom 6. Dezember 2006: Seit zwei Tagen verweigert Sharmila jegliche Zwangsernährung, medizinische Betreuung und Pflege. Dies nachdem der Premierminister angekündigt hat, Teile des Armed Forces Special Powers Act anzupassen. Sharmila verlangt die vollständige Aufhebung des Gesetzes.

Resumee auf deutsch über Sharmila Irom: (auf 1000PeaceWomen); Sie fastet seit November 2000. Sie protestiert damit gegen den Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act und verlangt dessen Abschaffung. Dieses Gesetz gibt den Sicherheitskräften im Nordosten Indiens ein Instrument in die Hände, das regelmässig missbraucht wird. Seit fünf Jahren ist sie wegen ihres “Verbrechens” inhaftiert und wird zwangsernährt.

Irom Sharmila kommt aus dem krisengeschüttelten Manipur im Nordosten Indiens. Am 2. November 2006 jährt sich der sechste Jahrestag ihres Hungerstreiks. Wegen Selbstmordversuchs wurde sie verhaftet, aus fadenscheinigen Gründen festgehalten und wird seither mit einer Magensonde zwangsernährt. Mit ihrem Fasten verlangt sie die Abschaffung des Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA).

Das Gesetz kann in Indien jederzeit angewandt werden, wenn eine Region als Unruheregion deklariert wird. Es gibt jedem Militär oder Paramilitär das Recht zu schiessen, zu verhaften oder zu durchsuchen – auch ohne entsprechenden Befehl. Ausserdem fehlen die Rechsmittel, um dagegen anzugehen. Mit wenigen Ausnahmen in jüngster Vergangenheit gilt Manipur seit 1980 als Unruheprovinz.

Sechs Jahre sind es nun her, dass Sharmila fastet. Der 2. November 2000 war vorerst ein Donnerstag wie jeder andere auch. Bis bei Malom, einer Stadt in Manipur, ein Konvoi der Assam Gewehre, einer paramilitärischen Truppe in Indien, von Aufständischen angegriffen wurde.

Der Rachefeldzug der uniformierten Paramilitärs forderte 10 Todesopfer. Man könnte sagen, dass weder diese Ermordungen noch die achfolgenden

Durchsuchungen für die Menschen in Manipur neu waren. Manipur war seit Jahren Bühne solcher gewalttätiger Operationen. Aber für Sharmila Irom war Malom der sprichwörtliche Tropfen, der das Fass zum überlaufen brachte. “Es gab keine Möglichkeiten, keine Mittel, künftige Angriffe zu verhindern”, sagt sie.

Seither wird um ihren Körper gekämpft. Nur wenige Tage nach Beginn des Hungerstreiks wurde sie wegen “versuchten Selbstmords” verhaftet.

Sie verweigerte eine Freilassung auf Kaution und sie weigerte sich, ihren Hungerstreik zu beenden. Sechs Jahre nun befindet sich Sharmila in Gewahrsam und wird zwangsernährt. Wieder und wieder wurde sie freigesprochen. Doch sie hungert weiter und wird jedes Mal wieder verhaftet.

Der Hungerstreik hat Sharmilas Körper stark zugesetzt. Sie ist 37 Jahre alt, wirkt aber älter und ist natürlich schwach. Schwieriger aber ist, dass sie während dieser Zeit ihre Mutter nie gesehen hat. Mit den Worten ihrer Mutter: “Ich bin sensibel. Wenn ich sie sehe, werde ich weinen. Aber ich will ihre Entschlossenheit nicht untergraben. Deshalb habe ich beschlossen, Sharmila nicht zu sehen, bis sie ihr Ziel erreicht hat.”

Sharmila ist Anfang Oktober nach Neu Delhi gereist nachdem sie einmal mehr freigesprochen wurde. Bevor sie ihren Hungerstreik in Jantar Mantar fortführte, legte sie in Rajghat Blumen nieder. Sie wurde jedoch wieder verhaftet und liegt zur Zeit in einem Spital in Delhi. Niemand weiss, wie lange sie da festgehalten oder wann sie nach Manipur zurückgeschickt wird. Bitte unterstützen Sie Sharmila Irom. (Updates).


Manipur Freedom.

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