Irom Sharmila, one of India’s most prominent political activists ended a 16-year hunger strike Tuesday, licking honey from her hand and declaring “I will never forget this moment.”
Sharmila had been force-fed through a tube in her nose and held by police since November 2000, when she began her fast to protest a draconian security law that gives immense power to security forces in the northeastern state of Manipur.
Earlier Tuesday, a judge had granted her bail after she assured him that she planned to end her fast.
Hours later, she appeared at a news conference, the nose tube already removed, and tasted the honey.
She said she plans to run in the next Manipur state elections, in early 2017, to fight to have the security act struck down.
“I need power to remove this act,” said Sharmila, 44. “I am the real embodiment of revolution.”
Asked how she felt to finally eat, she said “I will never forget this moment.”
She began her fast days after 10 civilians were killed by paramilitary soldiers in Manipur, which has long been plagued by uprisings by ethnic separatist militants and violent government crackdowns.
She was charged with attempting suicide, a crime in India, allowing officials to force feed her.
Sharmila announced last week that she planned to end the fast and run for political office.
On Tuesday, an official with Amnesty International India said the fast was “a testament to her passion for human rights.”
“The government arrested her, confined her to a hospital room and force fed her for 16 years, seemingly to break her will. There was zero dialogue. A peaceful protest was criminalized,” said the official, Abhirr VP.