Updated: May 15, 2019 12:23:19 am
In 2017, by all accounts, there were many in Manipur and beyond who did not want Irom (which means mother) Sharmila to end her 16-year-long hunger strike. She had become a symbol of peaceful, active resistance against the might of the state — her detention, force feeding, arrests and re-arrests, and deteriorating health were no match for her resilience.
When Sharmila expressed her desire to end her fast to try and build a life with her partner, many thought it would dim the spotlight on the abuse of and atrocities under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, whose repeal Sharmila had been demanding. The “iron lady” of Manipur, after she broke her fast, contested elections in Manipur and married her long-time partner, Desmond Anthony Bellarnine Coutinho. With the birth of her twins on May 13, at least part of her dream for her life has come true.
Explained | Irom Sharmila and her struggle against AFSPA
Sharmila had contested the assembly election in Manipur in 2017 against then Congress Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh and polled just 90 votes. Her vast symbolic appeal, it became clear, did not translate immediately into electoral gain and the path of conventional politics promised to be an arduous one.
And the physical and psychological toll that her hunger strike had taken, people feared, could be irreversible. Sharmila’s poor showing at the polls could easily be seen as a symptom of cynicism on the part of the voter, a tacit acknowledgment that the kind of moral courage it takes to make one’s body the site for a larger cause has no place in power politics. Yet, in small and significant ways, Irom Sharmila has continued to triumph.
AFSPA continues to be in force, but the atrocities committed under it have often been brought out of the shadows. And her own desire, for a normal life, a family and the everyday joys and sorrows that ordinary citizens enjoy has come true. Congratulations Sharmila, on the birth of Nix Shakhi and Autumn Tara. No one deserves it more.
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