UK & World News
India: Irom Sharmila Explains Hunger Strike
An Indian woman who has been on hunger strike for more than 12 years has told Sky News she will continue her protest despite being charged with attempting to commit suicide.
Irom Sharmila started her fast after she witnessed the killing of a group of civilians by Indian paramilitary forces in Manipur in November 2000.
The 40-year-old says she will never end her hunger strike unless the Indian government repeals a controversial piece of legislation called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
She told Sky News: "I am a democratic citizen. I am a simple non-violent woman who wants a simple normal life."
"I am so determined to my cause. My struggle is very needed - whether it is difficult or easy does not matter."
The AFSPA gives Indian soldiers immunity from prosecution in areas where there is conflict.
In Manipur, a state in India's northeast, there has been an insurgency for the last five decades.
A number of militant groups are demanding independence from India.
Indian human rights groups claim the AFSPA is used by soldiers as legal cover to carry out torture and extrajudicial killings.
Ms Irom - who is known as the Iron Lady of Manipur by her supporters - has not eaten a solid meal for more than 12 years.
She is currently being held in judicial custody and is kept alive by being force fed twice a day through a tube in her nose.
Her diet consists of liquid carbohydrate, protein and a smattering of vitamins.
She was arrested three days after her hunger strike began but under Indian law has to be released every year to see if she will start eating again.
In 2006, while on release, she took her protest to the capital city Delhi but was arrested and charged with attempting to commit suicide under section 309 of the Indian penal code.
The case is only just coming to court now - the wheels of Indian justice turn very slowly.
Ms Irom told Sky News she does not want to commit suicide and that her protest is about "justice and peace".
She says it is no different to what Mahatma Gandhi did to end British rule in India.
The Iron Lady's struggle has been compared to that of Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi.
She has been awarded a number of human rights awards over the years and in South Asia is seen as a symbol of female power.
She has pleaded not guilty and may get another chance to give voice to her views when her trial begins on May 22.