In November 2000, Ms. Sharmila, then 28, vowed to stop eating to protest a law that shields soldiers from prosecution for crimes, after a company of Assam Rifles killed 10 civilians.
As her legend grew, people wrote songs about her, a Bollywood film on Manipur will feature a character based on her and her image has graced posters and T-shirts and autorickshaws — her hair unruly, her face pale, a feeding tube attached to her nose. Amnesty International declared her a prisoner of conscience. In 2006, Shirin Ebadi, the Iranian Nobel laureate, said that if Ms. Sharmila died, “the whole executive branch of this country” would be responsible. They called her the goddess of Manipur.
But in July, she said she would end her fast, declared her intention to unseat the powerful chief minister of the state, currently serving his third term, and announced her plans to get married, presumably to her boyfriend, Desmond Coutinho, a man described by the local news media as a British citizen of Indian origin, about whom little is known.
On Aug. 9, in front of a throng of journalists, she licked a dab of honey from her hand. After nearly 16 years, Ms. Sharmila, tired of being an icon and saying she did not want to be called a goddess, walked away from her hospital prison.
“They drew me in whatever imagery they wanted of me and they just kept me there and worshiped me,” she said of the public.
That night, as she approached her new home, an angry crowd forced the ambulance carrying her and the police vehicles flanking it to stop.