Date
10 December 2016
Indian human rights activist Irom Sharmila is escorted to a court in the northeastern city of Imphal. Sharmila ended a 16-year hunger strike on Tuesday, saying she wants to enter politics. Photo: Reuters
Indian human rights activist Irom Sharmila is escorted to a court in the northeastern city of Imphal. Sharmila ended a 16-year hunger strike on Tuesday, saying she wants to enter politics. Photo: Reuters

Indian activist tastes first hurdle after 16-year hunger strike

An Indian activist who ended the world’s longest hunger strike on Tuesday is having a taste of the next challenge — getting back to normal diet.

Doctors say Irom Sharmila could take up to six weeks before she can eat normally again, according to BBC News.

Sharmila, 44, called off her campaign against a controversial security law which had led to her detention in a hospital room in Imphal, capital of India’s restive north-eastern state of Manipur, for most of 16 years.

In detention, she was surrounded by armed guards and a team of doctors and nurses who would force-feed her liquid nutrients through a nasogastric tube.

Once a year, she would be released because the maximum sentence for attempting suicide is one year but police would quickly re-arrest her after she continued her fast.

On Tuesday, she symbolically ended the fast by tasting some honey, saying she would end the hunger strike in order to enter politics.

A nasogastric tube is a feeding pipe inserted through the nose, past the throat and into the stomach.

Feeding through the tube prevents dehydration and starvation and maintains the person’s body weight.

Doctors say feeding through the tube is common for people in a coma over a long period of time or patients in advanced stages of degenerative neurological diseases.

They are fed with tubes because they cannot eat or swallow and food can get stuck in their windpipe.

Through the tube, Sharmila was force-fed a carefully calibrated liquid diet containing protein, carbohydrates and vitamins up to three times a day — reduced to two times in recent years.

The diet included food supplements, apple juice and vitamin syrups. Doctors say they altered the dosage if she lost or gained weight.

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