Manipuri human rights activist Irom Sharmila on Tuesday launched a new political front to take forward her battle to get Afspa (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) repealed from the state.
Her political front will be called People’s Resurgence Justice Alliance, which she formally launched at a press meet in Imphal, according to ANI. Sharmila who ended her 16-year-old hunger strike in August this year, had vowed to press on with her fight by entering politics. She had expressed her desire to become the chief minister of the state to pursue her battle.
“I’ll never forget this moment… I want to be the Chief Minister of Manipur to take positive steps,” Sharmila had said after breaking her fast. “I know nothing about politics. My education is very, very low…But I will use everything I have for the society,” an emotional Sharmila added.
However, there was widespread discontent amid Manipuris as Sharmila decided to break her fast. From being revered as a shining icon of unbending will, the 44-year-old activist was suddenly transformed into an object of furious disapproval, writes Shuma Raha for Firstpost. The article further states that after being released on bail, Sharmila had to strufggle to look for a home to stay. She was denied entry twice into a colony in Imphal, where she wanted to live. Even an Iskcon temple denied her the permission to stay.
The Iron Lady however stood by her decision. An emotional Sharmila had said that she will still try to become a CM to push her demands, even if her own people did not support her. “People have reacted negatively to my decision to enter politics. But this is my decision,” she said. Stressing on the point that she was not afraid of the consequences of her actions, Sharmila said, “Let them kill me the way they killed Mahatma Gandhi.”
Sharmila’s 16-year-long battle clearly had won her inetrnational recognition and widespread support from the Manipuris, but her decision to deny (or later accept) food had multiple dimensions which went beyond her fasting. The toughest one was not to go home and meet her 84-year-old mother Shakhi Devi till achieving her goal of getting Afspa revoked. Sharmila has not visited her house at Kongpal Kongkham Leikai, on the edge of Imphal city, even once all these years.
But despite breaking her fast she has decided that she will only meet her once she has succeded in her aim to get Afspa repealed from Manipur. “I will see my mother only after I achieve my goal of repealing Afspa,” she said.
With all major political parties extending support to Sharmila after she expressed her desire to join mainstream politics, the Iron lady had made it clear that she will form a new front to do justice to her battle. However, Sharmila had earlier in September met with AAP convenor and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal giving rise to speculations about her next move. She met Kejriwal on 26 September and sought his advice on how to defeat “major political parties” in her state while Kejriwal assured her of all possible support for fighting the election, according to PTI. She also sought to know how Kejriwal managed the feat of handing out a crushing defeat to traditional political players with his newly floated political front. Sharmila had also expressed her desire to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi expecting “good advice” from him.
Sharmila, who is often referred to as the Iron lady of India had been forced fed through a nasal tube for all these years, as she decided to go on a hunger strike against the army law that she said led to atrocities in her northeastern state. Sharmila, in tears, broke her fast in front of reporters by dripping honey into her mouth on 9 August, 2016. She said she would continue to fight a law that gives security forces wide powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight in parts of remote Manipur state.
She launched her hunger strike in 2000 after security forces killed 10 people near her home following a rebel attack on a military convoy. Her long protest won her worldwide recognition and the rights group Amnesty International described her as a prisoner of conscience.
Manipur, a state with a population of 2.5 million, has struggled for decades with an insurgency even as other northeastern states have become more stable. Last year, 20 soldiers were killed in an attack there.