Woman on 14-year hunger strike freed from prison hospital
An Indian human rights activist who has been on hunger strike for the last 14 years in protest against alleged army atrocities walked free on Wednesday from a prison hospital where doctors had force-fed her to keep her alive.
Irom Sharmila’s release comes after a trial judge found no evidence to support charges filed in 2000 by prosecutors in the northeastern state of Manipur that she was trying to commit suicide by refusing food.
“It is hard for me to believe that I am free now. My battle against injustice and crimes committed by the army in Manipur will continue,” Sharmila told Reuters by telephone as she waited to leave the hospital in state capital, Imphal.
Hunger strike continues
TV pictures later showed Sharmila emerging from the hospital.
“I have suffered for 14 years but my struggle continues. This is my war against a draconian law and I do not want or expect anyone to sing glory songs about me,” she told reporters, vowing to continue her hunger strike.
The 42-year-old, known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, began her fast in November 2000 after 10 people were killed in a shooting at a bus stop near her home in Manipur, a remote state that borders Myanmar.
Activists blamed the army for the killings, which included two children. Police registered a case but no arrests were made.
Despite calls from judicial inquiries and human rights groups, the federal government has kept in force an anti-terror law that gives soldiers virtual immunity from prosecution in regions hit by insurgencies.
Shocked by the failure to bring those responsible to justice, Sharmila started her hunger strike, vowing only to end it when the law was repealed.