Other States

'Iron Lady' turned away, finds no place for stay

Manipuri rights activists protest in Imphal on Monday against Irom Sharmila's decision to break her fast.  

After breaking her fast outside the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal, Irom Sharmila found it difficult to find a shelter on Tuesday night. She went to at least two places, but was turned away.

The police later brought her to the Imphal City Police Station. Perhaps that is indicative of the fact that many who came forward to support her over the last decade-and-a-half found it a little challenging to accommodate her, after her release.

“It could be because of the fact that a few underground organisations have questioned the withdrawal of Ms. Sharmila’s fast,” said one of her associates.

Earlier, Namoijam Oken and Khetri Laba, leaders of the Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL) a Meitei insurgent outfit, and the Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP) an ultra-leftist group, addressed Ms. Sharmila as “elder sister”, and urged her not to end the fast. That, perhaps, is the key reason she did not have much support while being produced in court on Tuesday. Only a few women and handful of activists stood by her side as her 16-year struggle changed course. Opinion on her decision to end the fast remained clearly divided in Manipur.

“People in Manipur do not trust Indian electoral politics. They think that by joining politics, Irom Sharmila will end up like them,” Malem Ningthouja, an academic and activist, told The Hindu. Babloo Loitongbam, Director Human Rights Alert, Manipur, also a close aide of Ms. Sharmila, has a different take on the matter.

“Sixteen years ago, when a young woman started a fast demanding removal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) she was being laughed at. Today, she symbolises the protest against AFSPA across the country. Who knows five years from now what her political course may chart out to be,” said Mr. Loitongbam.

At the all-women market Ima Keithel, in the heart of the city, women do not endorse her decision to join politics as Ms. Sharmila’s mission “remained incomplete”.

Outside Manipur, she has strong support and many said the ‘Iron Lady’ has “good reasons” to withdraw her fast now in 2016. Civil rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen said it would be “wrong to state that Sharmila’s job remained incomplete.”

“For the last 16 years, her fast has been a crucial point in the movement against AFSPA and it would be extremely cynical and a wrong representation of the facts to say that the fast has turned out to be a failure after it is withdrawn,” Dr. Sen told The Hindu.

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2021 11:17:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/Iron-Lady-turned-away-finds-no-place-for-stay/article14562183.ece

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