IROM SHARMILA, known across the world as the Iron Lady of Manipur for her 16-year hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in the state, gave birth to twin girls on Mother’s Day at Cloudnine hospital in Bengaluru.
The 46-year-old had moved to Kodaikanal after breaking her fast in August 2016, and moved to Bengaluru last year for the pregnancy. Sharmila and her husband, Goan-born British national Desmond Coutinho, have named their daughters Nix Sakhi and Autumn Tara.
“This is a new life, a new beginning for me. I am very happy. Neither Desmond nor I had any preference, we just wanted healthy children,” Sharmila told The Indian Express over phone from her hospital bed Sunday evening, almost 12 hours after the twins were delivered at 9.20 am through a C-section at Cloudnine’s Malleswaram branch.
Pointing out that her husband Coutinho, who is a heart patient, was exhausted and sleeping, Sharmila said she was too excited to sleep herself. “I have had a couple of visitors and the nurses here have been celebrating with me. My daughters have been born on Mother’s Day and I am doubly happy because of that. I feel that is significant,” she said.
Sharmila said her first daughter, Nix Sakhi, has been named after her mother, Irom Sakhi, who died several months ago and with whom she shared a close bond. “I am missing my mother terribly. I wish she could have known. I wish I could have picked up the phone to tell her,’’ she said.
“My husband chose the name Nix, which is Latin for snow. He wanted our daughter to be cool and calm like the snow,” she said. Their second daughter has been named after “a Buddhist goddess, the female reincarnation of the Buddha”.
After she began her protest in November 2000, Sharmila was lodged as an undertrial at Imphal’s JNIMS hospital where she was force-fed by a Ryles tube, which was to become symbolic of her struggle. At the time, Sharmila and her mother had vowed not to meet each other till AFSPA had been repealed.
Last August, she ended her fast, saying she would enter politics and try to get the Act lifted. But she left Manipur soon after the assembly election in 2017, when she was defeated by Chief Minister Ibobi Singh from Thoubal.
She had received a bare 90 votes. Humiliated, she had said she felt let down by her people, for whom she had fought for 16 years.
Dr Sripada Vinekar, Sharmila’s gynaeocologist, said the mother and babies are expected to be discharged in another two days. “All three are doing fine… as the babies were in a transverse position, there was no option but a caesarean delivery. Both babies weighed 2.1 kg each at birth,” Vinekar said.