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Woman from India Continues 12-Year Hunger Strike

A 40-year-old woman protesting an Indian law plans to continue her hunger strike. Irom Sharmila has not eaten in 12 years. She has been force fed through a tube by authorities, according to the Associated Press. She was charged Monday with attempted suicide in a case that has her protesting the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

The law allows troops to shoot to kill suspected rebels without being prosecuted and to arrest suspected militants without having a warrant. Police are also provided with wide powers of search and seizure.

The last time Sharmila had a voluntary meal was on November 4, 2000 in Imphal, which is the capital of Manipur. Just three days later she was arrested and has been force fed using a tube in her nose since then. According to law, she has to be released once per year to see if she will begin eating on her own. When she does not eat on her own, she is returned to jail and force fed.

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The charges on her now come from a protest in 2006 that she attended in New Delhi. She was removed from the protest by police, taken to a hospital, and charged her with attempted suicide. She was charged on Monday by Magistrate Akash Jain.

“I love life. I do not want to take my life, but I want justice and peace,” she said.

Her trial is set for May 22. She could be sentenced to one year in prison if convicted.

“I will continue my fast until the special powers act is withdrawn,” she said.

Indian Law Minister Ashwini Kumar defended the act. “Therefore, the opinion of the defense establishment and intelligence agencies was critical in such matters,” Kumar said.

The government appointed a panel that recommended the law be re-examined and that protections be removed for soldiers who have been accused of sexual violence. The law was not amended by the government.

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