Irom Chanu Sharmila (born 14 March 1972),also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Mengoubi” (“the fair one”)is a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from the Indian state of Manipur. On 2 November 2000,she began a hunger strike which she decided to end on 9 August 2016, after 16 years of fasting. Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, she has been called “the world’s longest hunger striker”. On International Women’s Day, 2014 she was voted the top woman icon of India by MSN Poll.In 2014 two parties asked her to stand in the national election, but she declined. She was then denied the right to vote as a person confined in jail cannot vote according to law.On 19 August 2014 a court ordered her release from custody, subject to there being no other grounds for detention. She was re-arrested on 22 August 2014 on similar charges to those for which she was acquitted, and remanded in judicial custody for 15 days.Amnesty International has declared her as a prisoner of conscience.
Sharmila was awarded the 2007 Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, which is given to “an outstanding person or group, active in the promotion and advocacy of Peace, Democracy and Human Rights”.She shared the award with Lenin Raghuvanshi of People’s Vigilance Committee on Human Rights, a northeastern Indian human rights organisation.In 2009, she was awarded the first Mayillama Award of the Mayilamma Foundation “for achievement of her nonviolent struggle in Manipur”.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, which came with a cash award of 5,100,000 rupees,and the Sarva Gunah Sampannah “Award for Peace and Harmony” from the Signature Training Centre.In 2013 Amnesty International declared her a Prisoner of conscience, and said she “is being held solely for a peaceful expression of her beliefs.”The influence made by Irom Sharmila is often considered as powerful as the influences by personalities in the past and present.