Irom Sharmila Chanu (born 14 March 1972), also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Menghoubi” is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur.
Since November 4, 2000, she has been on hunger strike to demand that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), passed on September 11, 1958, by the Parliament of India. It grants special powers to the armed forces in what the act terms as “disturbed areas” in the Northeastern Indian states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. It was later extended to Jammu and Kashmir.
Irom Sharmila Chanu has been named “the world’s longest hunger striker” by Ripley’s – Believe it or Not!
For twelve years she hasn’t eaten anything – not a morsel of food, not a drop of water. She has been force-fed a liquid diet twice a day through a pipe in her nose in a bid to keep her alive.
She was awarded the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights. In 2010, she won a lifetime achievement award from the Asian Human Rights Commission. Later that year, she won the Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize of the Indian Institute of Planning and Management.
In December 2011, Pune University announced a scholarship program for 39 female Manipuri students to take degree courses in honour of Irom Sharmila Chanu’s 39 years of age. A group of professors based in New Delhi has also recently launched the annual Irom Sharmila Scholarship, this year going forward.