Ending her 16-year fast on Tuesday when she took a few drops of honey, Irom Chanu Sharmila could not hold back her tears. A few moments later the frail woman, who had been force-fed all these years, regained composure and announced that she wants to be the Chief Minister of Manipur, some day.
“There is no democracy in Manipur. I want to be Chief Minister of Manipur and make positive changes,” she said calmly.
The moment marked a historic transformation of Irom Shamila from a global icon of protest and the most recognisable face of resistance in the conflict-ridden State into a political leader.
“People say politics is dirty, so is society,” Ms. Sharmila said, adding that people may be negative towards her about her new decision but they don’t want any real change and wish to see her just as a symbol of resistance.
Ms. Sharmila ended her fast exactly a month after the Supreme Court judgment questioned the immunity enjoyed by the security personnel under the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) against criminal action for acts committed in disturbed areas. The apex court had said last month that there was no concept of “absolute immunity” from trial by a criminal court if an Army man had committed an offence.
Ms. Sharmila started her fast at the age of 28 following a massacre in Imphal in which 10 persons were killed. She has been demanding repeal of the draconian AFSPA.
The 44-year-old activist was clear in her resolve to withdraw her fast and appealed to the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s court to set her free, soon after she reached the court at 10.58 am.
‘I am neither an icon nor a goddess’
Ms. Sharmila told journalists that she is neither an icon nor a goddess but an “ordinary woman with ordinary desires.”
Asked about her plans for marriage, she said it is her “personal issue and a very natural one.”
Earlier in court, she stood up several times and asked the Magistrate to speed up proceedings. Her patience during a near solitary life for so long seemed to have run out.
A few hours later after the court granted her bail, she held a press conference and broke her fast. She gave a clear message to Prime Minister Narendra Modi “to connect to people without the draconian laws.” She also underlined the Kashmiris’ right to self-determination.
Released from custody, however, she does not know where to go. She does not want to see her mother Irom Sakhi as she had promised her that she will meet her only after the AFSPA is repealed. “I think I want to settle in an ashram,” she told the media.