India woman's 10-year fast against anti-insurgent law

Image caption,
Ms Chanu is force-fed through her nose

An Indian woman who has spent 10 years fasting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has vowed not to call off her protest.

The act gives sweeping powers to the armed forces when they fight separatist insurgents or leftist radicals - powers which critics say are often misused.

Irom Sharmila Chanu, 39, completed her 10th year of hunger strike in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

She has been force-fed through a pipe in her nose since November 2000.

The move was made on the orders of the state government to keep her alive.

Iconic figure

"I will withdraw the fast as and when the government withdraws the Armed Forces Special Powers Act unconditionally, but not before that," Ms Chanu said.

Image caption,
Ms Chanu says that she is determined to continue her protest

The BBC's Subir Bhaumik in Calcutta says that her decade of fasting has made her into an iconic figure in Manipur.

The state has a population of about 2.5 million people and a huge force of army, paramilitary and state police. They have been fighting at least 12 insurgent groups since 1980.

The government and the army maintain that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is necessary to restore normality in the state.

But civil society groups allege gross human rights violations by troops and policemen.

The National Human Rights Commission last year rebuked the Manipur government for not reporting to it 111 cases of "mysterious disappearances" of locals - men and women believed to have been dragged away and killed secretly.

Ms Chanu's hunger strike started after one such alleged atrocity.

Her brother, Irom Singhajit Singh, said that she began it after soldiers of the Assam Rifles paramilitary force allegedly killed 10 young Manipuri men.

"The killings took place on 2 November, 2000. It was a Thursday. Sharmila used to fast on Thursdays since she was a child. That day she was fasting too. She has just continued with her fast," Mr Singh said.

Three days later, police arrested her on charges of trying to take her life.

Later she was transferred to judicial custody and taken to hospital where she remains to this day, force-fed a liquid diet through her nose.

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