Manipur does neither welcome nor reproves Irom Sharmila's decision
IMPHAL: In a state where she is revered as someone next to god and is the face of the movement against controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), Manipur is still in a fix on whether to welcome or reprove rights activist Irom Sharmila’s decision to end her hunger strike and dabble in politics.
Nearly 16 years after she had launched her hunger strike protesting against the killings of 10 innocent civilians, allegedly by the Assam Rifles at Malom on the outskirts of Imphal, and demanding the repeal of AFSPA, Sharmila will end her fast on Tuesday, a week since she had publicly made the announcement. Officials are tight-lipped about Tuesday’s proceedings but the activist is expected to be produced in a local court once she officially ends her fast. She is then likely to be released from Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, which has been virtually turned into a jail for her. It is not yet clear where she will proceed once released.
“As of now, we don’t have any idea about her plan. We can tell you once she is released,” Sharmila’s elder brother Irom Singhajit told this correspondent. Despite repeated attempts, none of the family members could meet her since she had spoken of her mind. It is obvious that the Manipur government will not allow anyone to meet her till she ends her fast for fear that she might be egged on to revoking her decision.
One of Sharmila’s five brothers has passed away and she also has four sisters. They all live separately. Her lawyer Khaidem Mani refused to share details even off record. Sharmila’s decision to end the strike, get married and foray into politics has apparently displeased many, if not angered them. “When she had begun her fast, it was her decision and we didn’t intervene.
The decisions which she made last week were hers. She did neither consult us nor fellow activists. She is the youngest of the siblings and our love will always be there for her. Our 84-year-old mother, Sakhi Devi, is waiting for the moment of her victory. She gave her blessings to Sharmila when she had started her movement,” Singhajit said. T Somorendra Singh, 76, who lost his college-going son in the December 2, 2000 firing incident at Malom and is the convenor of Ten Innocent Victims’ Family Association, was visibly perturbed.
“Sharmila is regarded as someone next to god. She is a statesman who sacrificed 16 long years of her life in the movement. So, I don’t know how things will pan out for a person to descend from a mountain peak to be a politician. I am not sure if she took the decision with a sound mind. After all, she is a mortal being,” Singh said. “As a politician, even if she goes on to becoming the chief minister of Manipur, she won’t be able to repeal AFSPA as it involves the nod of Central government…However, one thing I must say that she achieved 90% success over the past 16 years of her fight.
Her movement has resulted in the reduction of fake encounter cases and excesses committed by security forces in Manipur,” Singh said. The victims of the firing incident included a 62-year-old woman and a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. Then 28, Sharmila began her movement two days after incident. Subsequently, she was arrested by the police who charged her with an “attempt to commit suicide”. In due course, she was remanded in judicial custody. But as her health deteriorated rapidly while under arrest, nasogastric intubation was forced on her to keep her alive. She has been released every year and then re-arrested a day later under Section 309 of the IPC for going ahead with her fast.