Radicals threaten Irom Sharmila for decision to join politics, wed ‘outsider’
Almost 16 years after she began a fast-unto-death protest against the controversial Afspa Act, human rights activist Irom Sharmila announced she was ending it, and would join politics.
A Manipur-based radical social organisation has warned activist Irom Sharmila, who recently decided to end her 16-year-old fast against alleged army atrocities, against contesting elections and marrying an “outsider”.
In a threat to the “living icon of mass struggle”, the secessionist Alliance for Socialist Unity, Kangleipak reminded her that “some former revolutionary leaders were assassinated” after deviating from the cause and getting elected as people’s representatives.
The lesser-known ASUK backs the idea of a sovereign Manipur, free from Delhi’s control. Two secessionist militant outfits -- Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup and Kangleipak Communist Party -- have also asked Sharmila to continue the fast.
The 44-year-old on July 26 surprised everyone, saying she would on August 9 end her hunger strike against the armed forces (special powers) act, which gives security men powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight. She also told media that she planned to marry.
But her decision has not gone down with some rights activists as well as members of her family.
“All those who joined electoral politics did so knowing well that it was a dead-end,” ASUK chairman N Oken and vice-chairman Ksh Lab Meitei said in a statement on Wednesday.
They also said Sharmila should not marry a “non-local man”. Sharmila is in a relationship with Desmond Coutinho, a Goan-British activist.
“Even though the man is an NRI, he is still an Indian in the eyes of the people of Kangleipak (core of Manipur),” the statement said.
Increasing cases of inter-marriage between “Indians” and people of Kangleipak and incessant influx from India were responsible for the ongoing mass movement for the protection of the indigenous peoples, ASUK said. Kangleipak is the ancient name of Manipur.
The NRI Sharmila wanted to marry could have been planted by the intelligence agencies to weaken the fight against Afspa and “colonial domination”, ASUK said.
The “Iron Lady of Manipur” started her strike on November 5, 2000, three days after she allegedly saw a group of army men kill 10 people at a bus stop in Malom near her home.
Sharmila, who has spent most of the last 16 years in custody in an Imphal hospital, is to be released on August 9.