Activist ‘Iron Lady’ Irom Sharmila on Friday urged Delhi University students to join her in the fight to win civil rights for the people of Manipur, a month after breaking her 16-year-long fast against a law that gives the army special powers in the militancy-ridden state.
“I am here to influence you all to join hands so that together we can make a difference and get our rights,” said Sharmila in her first-ever address to DU students.
The Manipuri crusader, who was on a long fast demanding repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), was given a standing ovation at the function organised by the North East Forum for International Solidarity (NEFIS).
Friday was the 120th birth anniversary of Hijam Irabot, a freedom fighter and politician from Manipur.
She said about her fast, “I couldn’t keep quiet at the wrong that was happening around. I had realised my responsibility and right as a citizen of the nation to fight against laws that exploit us.”
She said she did not end her struggle by ending her fast, but merely tried to transform it from an individual fight to a mass movement.
“It is you, the youth, who are the symbol of inspiration. Do not remain content with the dirty administrative system, but fight for things which society wants and you like,” she said.
Comparing herself to Irabot who fought against state repression, she said she will join politics and fight so that every politician is a reflection of the common man.
“People want to see me as a leader irrespective of my nature. However, it is the power holders who cannot accept this. They are the ones trying to instigate the common masses from supporting me…You all should follow me and let us change and make a difference,” she said.
Women’s activist and professor Nandini Sundar, who also addressed the students, said from the next year the Irom Sharmila Scholarship will be awarded after consulting Sharmila herself.
The DU-instituted cash award of Rs 50, 000 is open to any post-graduate student from a region of internal armed conflict enrolled in any Delhi educational institution.
In 2016, it was jointly awarded to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union and Rohit Vemula (posthumously) of the Hyderabad Central University. The award is Rs 60,000 if shared.