On November 4th, 2013, Irom Chanu Sharmila entered the 14th year of her hunger strike against the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act. This is a repost of my on going project on Sharmila and the movement that surrounds her.
Draped in a white shawl, Irom Chanu Sharmila sat on the edge of a hard wooden bench inside a Delhi courtroom, slowly uncoiling a strand of hair from the feeding tube secured in her left nostril. Her life had changed forever on November 2, 2000, when members of an Indian paramilitary group, the Assam Rifles, gunned down 10 innocent civilians at a bus stop in her home state of Manipur. Sharmila, then a young activist and poet, decided to undertake a fast against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), which has granted Indian security forces over fifty years of impunity to kill, confiscate, and arrest without warrant in Manipur. Her campaign, now the longest hunger strike in history, has seen negligible results.
For 12 straight years, Sharmila has been charged with attempted suicide, giving the government the legal justification to hold and force-feed her. On March 4th, 2013, she was escorted into a Delhi courtroom to finally begin her trial. Now 40 years-old, Sharmila has aspirations for a life that isn’t defined by protest, a life of family and friends (though she has given up her dream of having children). However, there are only two options that will lead to the end of her fast. Either the government repeals AFSPA, which seems unlikely in the near future; or on March 22, 2013, when she is set to appear in court again, she is declared not-guilty, thus allowing her to carry out her fast to its ultimate end.
-Text and photos by Reportage Emerging Talent photographer Ian Thomas Jansen-Lonnquist