Irom Sharmila Rejects Congress for AAP, Continues Fast
Activist Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been on a fast-unto-death since the last 10 years against alleged rights violations by security forces, Friday continued her agitation even as she indicated supporting the AAP while rejecting Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh's offer to join the Congress.
"The chief minister made a surprise visit last month and requested me to join the Congress so that the party can jointly take up the issue of repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but I did not give any response to his offer," said Sharmila, who had been jailed since 2000.
Aam Aadmi Party leader Prashant Bhushan had proposed Sharmila's name to contest the Lok Sabha polls from Inner Manipur under his party's banner through Just Peace Foundation (JPF), a solidarity group supporting Sharmila's struggle.
"The AAP gave the people a taste of real democracy. The party inspires citizens with their firm stand against corruption and VIP culture," Sharmila said.
"If I am allowed to vote, I will cast my vote in favour of the AAP which I am confident will restore the rule of democracy," she said adding that politics according to her is uncertain and vague as the people cannot keep their faith and trust in politicians all the time.
"Politics is not a cup of her (Sharmila) tea and she even called politicians 'shameless people' for failing to scrap AFSPA despite their countless promises," said JPF trustee Babloo Loitongbam.
Manipur has an AAP unit but the party is yet to announce its candidates for the state's two Lok Sabha seats.
Sharmila, who has been named the 'Iron Lady of Manipur' has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Nov 2, 2000 in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home.
AFSPA, which was passed in 1990, gives Indian armed forces arbitrary powers in the states such as Jammu and Kashmir and Manipur that have been declared "disturbed areas" riddled with militancy.
Several human rights groups, including the North East Students' Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA.
Continuing with her fast after her release Thursday, Sharmila refused to eat a single morsel of food.
"She (Sharmila) is continuing her indefinite fast after she was released from judicial custody Thursday but she will be re-arrested if she continues with her fast-unto-death agitation," Imphal East police chief Jhaljit Singh told IANS.
"I am not going to break my fast and am ready to die for a cause that I believe is just and right," Sharmila said at the make-shift camp a few metres away from Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS), where she had been imprisoned on charges of attempt to suicide.
Several women activists under the banner of Sharmila Kanba Lup (Save Sharmila Movement) are also participating in the fast with the human rights crusader.
"AFSPA has no place in today's civilised world and imposing it can be construed as a mockery of human rights and democracy," Loitongbam, also the executive director of Human Rights Alert, told IANS.