Activist Irom Sharmila marries British partner Desmond Coutinha in Kodaikanal
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Activist Irom Sharmila marries British partner Desmond Coutinha in Kodaikanal

Rights activist Irom Sharmila decided to marry her long-time partner British citizen Desmond Coutinha after she quit politics following her defeat in the Manipur assembly elections.

india Updated: Aug 17, 2017 18:18 IST
KV Lakshmana and Rahul Karmakar
KV Lakshmana and Rahul Karmakar
Hindustan Times, Chennai/Guwahati
Irom Sharmila,British partner,Desmond Coutinha
Activist Irom Sharmila with her husband British citizen Desmond Coutinha after getting married in Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal.(HT Photo)

Manipur’s iconic rights activist Irom Sharmila on Thursday married her longtime partner, British citizen Desmond Coutinha, in Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal in the presence of a few friends.

No family members of either the bride or the groom were present when they signed the official documents at the registrar’s office.

The couple was based in Kodaikanal for the past two months to fulfil legal requirements. Sharmila was accompanied by documentary film maker and CPI-ML activist Divya Bharathi.

Sharmila, 45, ended a 16-year-long fast in 2016 and contested the assembly polls in Manipur this year, but ended up with just 90 votes in her first electoral fight against former chief minister Ibobi Singh.

She quit politics and decided to settle down in life by marrying Coutinha, 55, an NRI with roots in Goa.

Sharmila had become a symbol of resistance during her agitation demanding scrapping of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – commonly known by its acronym AFSPA – which activists say is the root cause of rampant rights abuses by security forces.

“It is her life and she has a right to live it her way. We were hurt initially but realised she deserves her personal space after giving 15-plus years of her life for the people in the fight against AFSPA,” her brother Irom Singhajit told the Hindustan Times over the phone from Imphal.

“It was her decision to go on indefinite hunger strike (from November 2000), her decision to end it, and her decision to get married. That’s why we did not object when the applied for marriage registration last month,” he added.

The marriage certificate of activist Irom Sharmila and her long-time partner, British citizen Desmond Coutinha. (HT Photo)

Sharmila’s mother, Irom Sakhi, said the family was hopeful that she would find happiness in life. “A mother never wants her child to suffer.”

Rights groups in Manipur, once associated with her, declined to comment on a “personal matter” but said they won’t mind Sharmila pitching in for AFSPA-related issues after marriage.

“After all, we cannot ignore that her fast put the spotlight on the draconian act,” said an activist declining to be named.

Several groups in Tamil Nadu were opposed to the marriage. On August 4, the Hindu Makkal Karchi filed a petition against the marriage saying their presence will vitiate the social harmony of the town.

Irom responded to this by saying, “I don’t know why they are scared about us getting married. It is a private life of two persons. Whether we are getting married or not, we will live together in the house in Kodaikanal. I don’t know what kind of threat a marriage of two persons could pose to the beautiful state.”

(With inputs from Sobhapati Samom)

First Published: Aug 17, 2017 13:32 IST