Irom Sharmila - A simple girl forced into sainthood

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:24 pm IST

Published - August 20, 2014 02:29 am IST - New Delhi:

Irom Sharmila

Irom Sharmila

It has been nearly 14 years and India still hasn’t listened to Irom Sharmila. She has held on to her belief steadfastly; she has remained unshaken.

It is not easy to commit to an indefinite fast; it is even more difficult to remain committed to it for so long. The body begins to oppose it almost immediately. Ulcers appear on the palate. The knees give up. There are dreams of food cooked by mother. There is giddiness. There are showers of sweat.

You think India will take notice; that a leader will come and offer you a glass of orange juice. That there will be television mikes.

But Manipur never was Jantar Mantar; there was nothing to be manufactured. So, Irom Sharmila’s plea went unnoticed. The fast that began on November 4, 2000, went on and on. The Manipur government did become insecure. But instead of giving her any assurance, they slapped charges of attempt to suicide against her. The State did not bring orange juice to her lips; it was forced through her nose from a rubber tube.

And she was kept under arrest. Every three weeks or so, she would be produced in a court that sent her back to a hospital in Imphal named after Jawaharlal Nehru.

In October 2006, Sharmila even came to Jantar Mantar after being sneaked into Delhi by a human rights organisation. But nothing happened except that she was picked up by the Delhi Police.

Irom Sharmila’s own people put her on display as a mascot of resistance. They beatified her. A saint is not supposed to fall in love, they told her. But she accepted the love of a man called Desmond Coutinho, who professed his love for her in March 2011. It kept her alive; it brought happiness to her in snatches.

Irom Sharmila still hasn’t understood why she has been charged with attempt to commit suicide. She says she has never tried to commit suicide; that most of the day she is dreaming of happiness. “I am a very simple girl,” she says.

Only that the simple girl won’t give up her fast till the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is repealed.

That looks unlikely. So Sharmila’s happiness will remain a dream, too. But at least she is free. For now.

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