AS IROM Sharmila gets set to appear before Cherap Court in Imphal in the attempt to commit suicide case against her, for the first time since she broke her 16-year fast on August 9, the animosity towards the 44-year-old seems to be receding.
A Facebook page asking people to lend support to Irom has been launched, and more people, especially the youth, are coming forward.
While the decision to end her fast, as also to contest the elections, among others, had initially met strong opposition in Manipur, many people, especially many first-time voters in the elections scheduled for early next year, are lending voice to her call for a change in government and politics.
A number of non-resident Manipuris have also come forward to lend her a helping hand financially.
A fortnight after she signed a bail bond, left the court premises a free woman, and later that evening broke her fast with a dab of honey, Irom, her friends say, has never looked healthier in years. She eats five or six small meals every day and is asking for more.
Activist Nandini Thockchom, among those who volunteered to cook her restrictive diet, said, “She is enjoying the food. I am astonished at the strength of the woman…and how quickly her body has adapted.”
At the high-security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute for Medical Sciences, her most regular visitors the past week, soon after the national media left Imphal, have been groups of college and university students. “They come every day and ask so many questions…they want to know about her life, her thoughts, her vision. Irom answers them with patience and candour,” a confidant said.
Irom’s most significant meeting came on August 19, when her mother, Irom Sakhi, 84, came visiting. It was the their second meeting in the 16 years she had been fasting, demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA.
According to those present, the two women betrayed little emotion — they simply held each other’s arms and sat in silence — Irom politely turned down her siblings’ invitation to come home.
“Her mother only told Sharmila, ‘I believe you have invitations to go to a lot of places. Please take your Gods with you, and please pray every day’. She didn’t make any demands,” said the confidant who was present.
When Sakhi left, Irom, according to the confidant, said, “Of all the people in the world, only my mother truly understands me.’’
For now, her friends are concentrating on getting Irom an identity — a PAN card, a bank account, or a voter ID card.