Irom Chanu Sharmila, also known as the “Iron Lady” or “Mengoubi” is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur
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Some Lesser Known Facts About Irom Sharmila
- Irom Sharmila is best known for her 16-year-long hunger strike, which had begun on 2 November 2000 and ended on 9 August 2016, her strike was against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Manipur.
- Her strike began after “Malom Massacre” on 2 November 2o00, ten people were shot at the bus stand by an Indian Army unit operating in the state. A memorial has been built at the site where the massacre had happened.
- Sharmila spent most of her 16 years’ hunger strike in judicial custody in a hospital in Manipur’s capital, Imphal, where she was force-fed a cocktail of medicines and baby formula.
- Irom is said to be “world’s longest hunger striker.”
- She was voted the “top woman icon of India by MSN Poll” on the International Women’s Day of the year 2014.
Sharmila was approached by several political parties to stand in the national elections but she had denied their offers.
- She has been arrested many times under the charges of “attempt to suicide.” Irom Sharmila Being Taken Into The Police Custody
- In 2011, ‘Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign (SSSC)’ was launched.
- She was an average student and was always interested in famous personalities like Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, etc., since her childhood.Irom Sharmila’s Childhood Photo
Irom Sharmila’s Childhood Photo
- In the early 1990s, she joined a course in journalism and began writing articles and poetry.
- She has also worked with social organisations like the BlindSchool for Children and Universal Youth Development Council.
- In 1998, Sharmila attended a course in nature cure and yoga.
- Sharmila is a voracious reader and after she reads a book, she donates it to the Imphal Public Library, which has gathered a shelf of her books over the last eleven years.
- Her elder brother, Singhajit, had left his job to take care of her sister, Sharmila.
- She met her mother only once since she had started her fast; as she felt meeting her mother might affect her resolution to fast, She said:
The day AFSPA is repealed I will eat rice from my mother’s hand.”
- She ended her hunger strike on 9 August 2016 and announced her decision to enter the politics.
- On 18 October 2016, she announced her new political party- People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance ( PRJA). This date was significant as the 1st session of the Manipur Assembly was held on the same date in 1948.
- In 2017, she fought the Manipur State Assembly Elections against the Congress candidate Okram Ibobi Singh (the then Chief Minister of Manipur) from the Thoubal Constituency. However, she lost the election; as she got only 90 votes.
- She has been awarded many prestigious Human Rights Awards.
- Her paternal grandmother Irom Tonsija Devi fought in the second Nupi Lan (also called Nupilan or Nupi Lal) or 1939 women’s war against the British Raj.
- In 1989, her father died of cancer.
- Author Deepti Priya Mehrotra has written a book on Sharmila’s life- Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur.
- After reading the book written on the struggle of Sharmila’s life, Desmond Coutinho, a British citizen, fell in love with Sharmila and wrote letters to her. Sharmila confessed that she was in love with Desmond Coutinho and they were planning to get married after the end of her fast, which they did on 17 August 2017 under the Special Marriage Act. Both are living in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu.
- She considers Mahatma Gandhi as her idol.
- On 12 May 2019, on the eve of Mother’s day, Irom Sharmila delivered twin girls.