A 44-year-old activist who has been on hunger strike for nearly 16 years is finally about to eat. Irom Sharmila started her nil by mouth protest to highlight alleged brutality by India’s military. She has said she will end her fast in August and run in state elections. Ms Sharmila has not eaten any food voluntarily since November 5 2000, when she began her protest against an Indian law that suspends many human rights protections in areas of conflict.
Three days earlier, 10 civilians had been killed by paramilitary troops in Malom, a small town on the outskirts of Imphal, the Manipur state capital. Three days into her hunger strike, she was arrested on charges of attempting suicide – which is a crime in India. Prison officials at a government hospital in Manipur have since force fed her through a tube in her nose.
"The only way to bring change is electoral process. I will stand as an independent candidate from Malom constituency," Ms Sharmila said. She said the single issue on her agenda would be the removal of the law that allows the military to act with impunity.
Ms Sharmila has spent most of her detention in hospital, where doctors make sure her condition is stable. She is also required to report to a local court every 15 days. Her long hunger strike has garnered support from across the world, with Amnesty International has called her a prisoner of conscience.