Irom Sharmila Back In Hospital After Breaking 16-Year Hunger Strike

Irom Sharmila ended her 16-year fast against AFSPA today

Imphal: Irom Sharmila, the iconic activist who didn't eat for 16 years in protest against alleged army atrocities in Manipur, burst into tears on Tuesday as she licked honey from her palm to end her fast.

Making the first move towards a new life that will include politics and marriage, Sharmila said: "I am not a goddess, I want to be a human being. I want to be Chief Minister of Manipur to make a positive difference."

But she was again taken to the hospital in the evening as authorities were concerned about her health.

This morning, the frail, wiry 44-year-old left, for the last time, the prison hospital in which she spent years being force-fed through a plastic tube after being arrested for attempted suicide.
With her first taste of food, she winced, then wept for several moments.

For a section of her supporters and family, the end of the long fast is a big, disconcerting change.

Bombarded with questions about her plans, she said, haltingly but defiantly: "This is my life. I want equality... I am called the Iron Lady of Manipur and I want to live up to it."

She wants to contest the Manipur election next year as an independent candidate.

She also wants to marry. For years, she has exchanged letters with Desmond Coutinho, a Goa-based British citizen who has also met her.

Asked whether she is a woman in love, Sharmila replied: "It is natural."

The death of 10 people in firing by security forces in 2000 drove Sharmila to launch a hunger strike to push for the removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA that gives the army sweeping emergency powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight.

"People say politics is dirty, but so is society," Sharmila told reporters.

It is not clear where she will stay. It could be the Iskon temple, a children's home or back to the jail hospital. What is certain is that the activist is not returning home, for now.