The wait for Manipur’s Iron Lady Irom Sharmila at Delhi’s airport on Sunday for a conveyance to Tikandrajit House was a full hour-and-half. A taxicab had to be called to transport her, food pipes dangling from her nose and all.
“Due to inadequate arrangements, we had stay at the airport for a long time,” Sharmila told HT in a quivering nasal tone because of her medical condition that has set in after 12 years of fasting and being force-fed from the nose by tubes.
The court had summoned Sharmila last year itself but the Manipur government said it did not have enough funds to pay for her trip.
“A scared government has now arranged for my court appearance.”
But the spirit is unrelenting. Her forcefulness comes through on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) issue whose repeal she has been demanding.
“No amendments, just repeal the AFSPA,” this time, her voice firm and clear.
But it is not from hope, anger or frustration that she draws her strength from. “My strength is from my conscience, just thinking that this is right and that is wrong. And AFSPA is a definite wrong.”
But she sees hope in the rise of civic society in India like never before. “Our people are becoming more aware, so I am hopeful.”
To describe the complex vortex of her emotions, Sharmila has taken to reading and writing.
“My circumstances compel me to write poetry. It settles my mind, broadens my outlook and gives me strength.”
On Monday, a Delhi court framed charges against Sharmila after she refused to plead guilty to attempting suicide at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar in 2006 by refusing to have food. “I only want justice…If I wanted to commit suicide I might have died,” she told the court adding she “loves life and does not want to take my own life”.
The court has posted the matter for May 22 for recording of prosecution’s evidence.
Under AFSPA, in Kashmir and parts of the northeast, security forces have the right to shoot to kill without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspects without a warrant besides wide-ranging powers of search and seizure.