Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

The World’s Longest Hunger Strike

March 30th, 2009 · No Comments

Following on last week’s post on the British experience on Pakistan’s North-West Frontier, Microkhan will soon be exploring India’s struggles to deal with its own “tribal territories.” As a somber teaser, check out this account of the world’s longest hunger strike, being carried out by a Manipuri activist named Irom Sharmila. She has been fasting since 2000, during which time she has more-or-less been in constant custody:

For eight years, Sharmila has not consumed anything through her mouth and is force-fed a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup through the nose with a catheter. “She considers the rubber pipe as unusual but with time it has become natural to her. She practises Yoga for many hours,” said Babloo Loitongbam, a close friend of Sharmila and member of Human Rights Alert in Imphal.

Sharmila’s cause is an esoteric one, at least for outsiders: The repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Indian military says the Act is necessary to combat the dozens of militant groups that flourish in the nation’s North-East. The Act’s opponents counter that it gives Indian soldiers a free hand to torture and abuse.

There are lessons to be learned here about the management of the North-West frontier and other “tribal territories” in Asia. Stay tuned.

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