IMPHAL, July 26 - Manipur�s human rights defender Irom Chanu Sharmila today said she will break her fast-to-death agitation demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the State and would now contest the ensuing Manipur Assembly elections. Manipur will go to polls early next year.
�I decided to change my approach since my 16-year fast led to no change. I want to see success,� 43-year-old Sharmila, also known as Iron Lady of Manipur, said.
Addressing media-persons soon after her appearance before the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate (Imphal West) this noon, Sharmila said she has decided to contest the polls as an Independent candidate and fight for the repeal of the AFSPA. Sharmila is a resident of Kongpal under Khurai Assembly constituency.
Claiming that the present rulers are not listening to the people�s voice, she said that there could be positive changes in the society only if there is a real representative of the people in the State Assembly.
Sharmila started her fast-unto-death agitation in November 2000 after 10 people were killed by troops of the Assam Rifles near a bus stop at Malom in the outskirt of Imphal. She was arrested under Section 309 (attempting to commit suicide) of the Indian Penal Code on charges of attempt to commit suicide.
Held at the security ward of the State-run hospital JNIMS here, she was force-fed through the nose several times a day.
The maximum punishment under Section 309 of IPC is a one-year jail term.
PTI adds: Sharmila also expressed her desire to get married after coming out of prison on August 9. The civil rights activist is known to have a boyfriend, a British national of Indian origin, who has in the past been in trouble with Sharmila supporters.
Sharmila�s nonviolent resistance has become a nucleus for collective protest against AFSPA in the northeastern States.
Her struggle has won her several human rights awards, including the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which is given to �an outstanding person or group, active in the promotion and advocacy of peace, democracy and human rights�.
International human rights organisations, like Amnesty International, have been demanding her unconditional release from prison. Moreover, a network of civil societies has been running a �Save Sharmila Campaign� for many years.
Many books have been written about her life while a short documentary �My Body My Weapon� has also been made on the same.