Irom Sharmila – Do You Know What You Should Know About The “Iron Lady” Of India?

Irom Sharmila is called the Iron Lady of India. Today, she has become a symbol of struggle, peace, and non-violence. She makes us believe in the power of nonviolence.

Her fast has made her not just a national but an international icon. Her decision to end her fast took everyone aback.

Here is a look at her iconic journey.

September 8,1980- The AFSPA is introduced in Manipur for the first time.

It was introduced to tackle the lawlessness created by four main insurgent groups through dacoity, ransom, and killings. All the four insurgent groups wanted a separate and independent Manipur.


November 2, 2000 – Malom Massacre takes place. The incident kills 10 civilians. The incident leads Irom Sharmila to begin her protest against the AFSPA.

The Assam Rifles killed around 10 people who were waiting at a bus stop. The incident was heavily criticized and it led a lot of people in the state to start protesting against the act.


November 5, 2000 – Irom Sharmila begins her historic fast

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She vows not to eat or drink anything till the Act is repealed. She also vows not to comb her hair or meet her mother, as she felt that her mother might convince her to break the fast.


November 6, 2000 – She is arrested for the first time under section 309 of the IPC

Her fast unto death was seen as an attempt to suicide and therefore she was arrested. The police even tried to force feed her.


November 21, 2000 – nasogastric intubation was forced on her in order to keep her alive while under arrest.

She continued to decline any food and soon her health deteriorated rapidly. Her alarming situation forced the police to force the nasogastric intubation on her. It is the only thing that kept her alive.


October 2, 2006 – Went to Raj Ghat to pay her respects to Mahatma Gandhi and later went to Jantar Mantar to protest against the AFSA.

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This was probably her most important visit to Delhi. When she went to the Jantar Mantar, she was joined by many other students and activists, who also demanded the removal of the special act.

Her fight against the AFSA led 30 women to protest naked in front of the Assam Rifles headquarters. They held a banner saying “Indian Army rape us”. Later, all of them were imprisoned.


October 6, 2006 – She was rearrested under section 309 of the IPC in Delhi, during this time she also met Nobel laureate Shirin Ebadi.

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She was arrested and later taken to AIMS. While she was in Delhi, she also tried to communicate with the then Prime Minister and the Home Minister. The Nobel laureate promised to take up her cause to the United Nations.


2007 – She receives the Gwangju Prize for Human Rights

She was given the prestigious prize for her promotion and advocacy of peace, democracy, and human rights.


2009 – She was awarded the first Mayillama Award of the Mayilamma Foundation “for achievement of her nonviolent struggle in Manipur”

The stories about her struggle reached the ears of each and every Indian. Although the government did not pay much heed to her protest, the prizes kept on coming.


2010 – She won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission.

The prestigious association recognized her struggle by awarding her the lifetime achievement award.


October, 2011 – The Trinamool Congress announced their support and even The Communist Party of India (Marxist–Leninist) (CPI-ML) called for a nationwide agitation to repeal the AFSPA.

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The parties showed their support and promised to work with her in her cause.


November 3, 2011 – 100 women formed a human chain in Ambari to show support for her.

Many other groups also staged a 24-hour fast in a show of solidarity.


2011 – Tries to approach the PM again

Her efforts of reaching the PM were again met with disappointment. She urged the PM to repeal the injust law.


October 16, 2011 – Medha Patkar flags off the “Jan Karvan March” from Srinagar to Imphal.

When the activists finally reached Imphal, they were not allowed to meet her.


2013 – Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience and said she “is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs”.

The prestigious organization too acknowledged her efforts.


April 17, 2014 – She is not allowed to vote

During the elections, she was not allowed to vote as she was a prisoner.  She said that though she had lost faith in democracy, the arrival of the anti-corruption Aam Admi Party forced her to change her views.


May 28, 2014 – Official records of the Manipur Central Jail show that she has spent 4,776 days in prison since she was first arrested.

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She has been arrested and released several times. Every time she was arrested she was kept at the government hospital because of her health.


March 28, 2016 – She is released from judicial custody as charges against her were rejected by a local court in Imphal.

The local court declared that she is free of all the charges.


July 26, 2016 – She announces that she would end her fast

She makes this historic decision as she feels that the only way to fight for her rights is by doing it politically. She lets everyone know of her intentions to contest the elections and become the CM.


August 9, 2016 – She finally ends her fast with a meal that consisted of honey and water first, then Horlicks and Chabon, a Manipuri rice soup.

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She ended her record-breaking fast but not her struggle.

We all shall pray that after all these struggles, she achieves what she always wanted. She inspires each and every woman who dreams of a better tomorrow. What makes her fight so special is the fact that, she is not just fighting the government and the laws, but every day she is also fighting with herself. A day will come when we will proudly say that I was alive when Irom Sharmila broke her fast.

I will never forget this moment, without this draconian law you can connect with us, you can govern us with fatherly affection, without discrimination. – Irom Sharmila

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