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Updated: Jul 9, 2021

On 9th August 2016, Irom Sharmila gave up her fast, of nearly 16 years. We express our great admiration for her indomitable spirit in her non-violent struggle and support her decision to give up the fast. Iron’s struggle has been a long and lonely one. While on fast, she was charged with attempted suicide and kept under detention to keep her alive with medical forced feeding. On 9th August she informed the court about giving up her fast and was released on bail.

The government of India promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958; that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to tackle insurgency in the North East and border States also giving them immunity from prosecution. Atrocities against ordinary citizens have been documented over the years under the cover of this Act. In 2012, the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) filed a PIL in the Supreme Court of India, alleging 1,528 fake encounters in Manipur since the 1980s. The Court ordered an investigation into six cases, all of which were proved to be fake encounters: killing of innocent persons, by armed forces or police commandos. The Court has ruled that all the remaining cases must be thoroughly probed. It has questioned impunity, ruling that armed forces cannot use excessive force even in areas that come under AFSPA.

People in Manipur, including Imas (`mothers’: elderly women activists), Meira Paibis (women’s groups, literally women holding `mashaals’), and many civil society groups, have been struggling for the repeal of AFSPA in the interests of peace and justice and have been supporters of Irom Sharmila’s long iconic fast. They want good governance to be restored in the state. Humane, democratic solutions are needed to solve real problems faced by people; dialogue rather than repression. We stand in solidarity with democratic people’s movements in Manipur, in their pursuit of restoring democracy and claiming their human rights, peace and good governance, accountability and justice. We call upon the Government of India to listen to the voice of the people and chalk out a path towards their right to self determination within the framework of the Constitution. The first step being the repeal of AFPSA.

We also respect Irom’s decision to change her tactic in the struggle to repeal AFPSA, while her supporters are unhappy that she is giving up the fast. She wants to change her form of advocacy to politics as her long fast has been unsuccessful. She is therefore seeking a new way to take this campaign forward. We support her right to choose the path of her life, which is to marry the man of her choice. As women we understand her yearning to live a normal life, and decide how she takes this struggle to a different level of campaigning. We pledge our full support to Irom in her decisions because as she has stated she will continue the struggle for the repeal of AFPSA to bring peace and harmony to her State of Manipur.

Ms. Irom Sharmila, we admire your courage and strength to withstand a 16 year long fast for the cause of freedom for your people. We fully support your decision to change your tactic of advocacy by ending your fast and taking the political route. We wish you success and will continue to stand with your struggle. We hope and pray you are able to recover your strength and move ahead according to your plans for the future.

10th August, 2016

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