Iron Lady of India in Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

An Indian woman who has spent nearly 12 years fasting to protest against a law that gives special powers to the armed forces has been featured in Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Irom Sharmila Chanu, 40, has been on a hunger strike since 2 November 2000 in the north-eastern state of Manipur.

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

Ripley’s site features a cartoon on the activist and describes her as “the iron lady of Manipur”.

Ms Chanu has repeatedly rejected requests to call off her fast until the government withdraws the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

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

‘Iconic’

Kshetrimayum Onil, a trustee of Just Peace Foundation, a non-governmental organisation based in the state capital, Imphal, told the BBC that he sent an e-mail to Ripley’s site about Ms Chanu’s struggle in mid-March.

“Lucas Stram, one of the researchers from the Ripley’s team, sent me a link to the cartoon page a few days back,” Mr Onil said.

Ms Chanu’s years of fasting have 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.

Ms Chanu’s hunger strike started after soldiers of the Assam Rifles paramilitary force allegedly killed 10 young Manipuri men in November 2000.

She has been arrested many times and taken to hospital where she has been force-fed a liquid diet through her nose in a bid to keep her alive. (courtesy: BBC)

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