Until 2 November 2000, when she heard that ten unarmed people waiting for a bus in Malom, a small town in Manipur had been gunned down by a paramilitary patrol on the rampage, Irom Sharmila was, in her own words, “an ordinary woman”. Even as an explosion of shock and outrage engulfed the state, Irom Sharmila acted with extraordinary personal and political courage: she resolved not to eat or drink until AFSPA was struck down. 

In the 16 years that have followed, successive central and state governments have refused to recognise her as a prisoner of conscience, or indeed, even to meet with her. Choosing instead to incarcerate this indomitable woman in a small hospital room under charges of “attempt to suicide”. Her crime: she is demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), a draconian law that gives the armed forces unfettered power and complete immunity in areas that the Government of India has designated as “disturbed”. But the world has recognised the significance of Irom Sharmila’s struggle. She has been hailed as a modern-day messenger of peace, a sign of hope in a world torn by conflict. 

“I will spread the fragrance of peace from Kanglei…In the ages to come it will spread all over the world” 

Excerpt from poem, Fragrance of Peace, by Irom Sharmila

The world recognises Sharmila’s struggle and resilience
  • Adivasi Ratna Award, 2011
  • Rabindranath Tagore Peace Prize, 2010
  • Lifetime Award, Asian Human Rights Commission, 2010
  • Gwangju Prize for Human Rights, 2007
  • Co-Nominee, 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize, 2005
Satyagraha, not suicide says Delhi High Court

On March 31, 2016 , the Delhi High Court put an end to the farcical proceedings against Irom Sharmila in which she was charged for ‘attempt to suicide’. In acquitting Irom Sharmila, and granting her struggle the political recognition it deserves by calling it a Satyagraha, the Delhi court has set an important precedent. What is needed now is for the state of Manipur to follow suit. 


Burning Bright: Irom Sharmila and the Struggle for Peace in Manipur: Deepti Priya Mehrotra

A moving account of the Iron Lady of Manipur and her resolute spirit, published by first in 2009. As Deepti Priya says, “I write of her because she is history in the flesh, being lived out in our times.”  (Publisher: Penguin, 2015: revised and updated; 1st edition 2009)


IronIrom: Two Journeys - Where the Abnormal is Normal: Minnie Vaid

“Is AFSPA really an Act? How could one human oppress another in this manner and how could you call it justice through law?” asks Irom Sharmila in another moving tribute to her struggle which places Sharmila’s campaign against AFSPA in the larger scape of the harrowing impact of AFSPA on the north eastern states of India. (Publisher: Rajpal and Sons)


The Poet, Sharmila: A graphic story by Ita Mehrotra

A young woman creates a beautiful graphic story in which the artist meets with the extraordinary Manipuri activist-poet, Irom Sharmila, and pays tribute to her 15-year-long fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Featured in “Drawing The Line: Indian Women Fight Back” (Editors: Priya Kuriyan, Larissa Bertonasco, Ludmilla Bartscht; Publisher: Zubaan Books).


Fragrance of peace. Book of poems by Irom Sharmila

A small compilation of twelve of her poems that provides a moving account of the underbelly of one woman’s astonishing struggle for peace. Even as she fulfills her chosen role in the movement against the draconian AFSPA that allows the army unfettered powers in areas that are considered politically “sensitive” or “disturbed”, Sharmila sometimes longs for all those things that people everywhere treasure – love, freedom, the sheer joy of living a “free” life, even simple things like being able to drink water, to brush her teeth.