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Hospital is Irom Sharmila’s home after family, supporters shun her

Manipuri rights activists protest in Imphal on Monday against Irom Sharmila's decision to break her fast.

Manipuri rights activists protest in Imphal on Monday against Irom Sharmila’s decision to break her fast.

The change has been swift and cruel.

Hailed as an icon for her 16-year fast that won her legion of supporters at home and acclaim across the world, Irom Sharmila found herself unwanted within hours of calling off her protest on Tuesday.

She appears to have paid a huge price for choosing a normal life.

Turned away by her own, and booed off the houses of activists, the 44-year-old, it seems, will have to stay on in the 8x12ft hospital ward that doubled up as her prison cell for almost 16 years.

The only thing missing is the feeding tube that was taken off when she ended her fastto take the political route to continue her struggle against the armed forces special powers act (Afspa).


Sharmila’s mother, brother Irom Singhajit and other members of her family, who have seven houses between them in Imphal’s Kongkham locality, turned her away after the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences (JNIMS) released her at 4pm.

Police then took her to activist and former health director Thiyam Suresh’s residence in the Keishamthong Laisom area. But some women blocked her way.

She was later driven to the city police station after she was heckled in Shamu Makhong area. With no place to go, she was back in the hospital a little after 10pm after offering prayers at the local Iskcon temple.

“She would be safer in the hospital,” a senior police officer said, refusing to be identified.

Anger has been growing ever since Sharmila on July 26 surprised everyone by announcing her decision to call off her protest. Radical groups have warned her of death for “abandoning the struggle”.

Members of the Sharmila Kanba Lup (Save Sharmila Campaign) shouted at her for “letting down our trust” as the activist was leaving court after getting bail.

“We went to the court to find out if she was serious about breaking her fast. We strongly condemn her decision, possibly influenced by certain forces,” group’s president S Momon said.

The protesters are also upset with her plan to marry her British-Indian boyfriend Desmond Coutinho. They say Coutinho is an outsider planted by Indian agencies to weaken Sharmila’s resolve.

Read | Radicals threaten Irom Sharmila for decision to join politics, wed ‘outsider’

Her mother Sakhi Devi, 94, recently said Sharmila’s decision neither made her happy nor sad. “But she should have consulted me and taken my blessings like she had done while going on fast 16 years ago.”

Sakhi has not met Sharmila all these years.

Speaking to media at JNIMS on Tuesday, Sharmila said she would not meet her mother as she was yet to achieve her goal of getting Afspa repealed — a promise she made in November 2000 when she began fasting.

But there are many who want Sharmila’s decision to be respected.

“I felt so bad to see the kind of expression on her face when inside the police van she realised that she will not be allowed to stay at Keishamthong by the locals,” popular musician Akhu Chingangbam wrote on Facebook.

“She fought for us for 16 years, and that was what we gave her in return. Keep aside her going to politics and marrying a non-local, that’s a different thing. As fellow humans, at least give her the courtesy on her first day of freedom/bail from police and hospital.”

The singer in an earlier post challenged Sharmila’s detractors. “You can continue the protest on her behalf if you are that mad or pissed. I don’t think she can sue you. She has represented enough of this bloody land.”

Outside Manipur, she has strong support and many said the ‘Iron Lady’ has “good reasons” to withdraw her fast now in 2016. Civil rights activist Dr. Binayak Sen said it will be “wrong to state that Sharmila’s job remained incomplete.”

“For the last 16 years her fast has been a crucial point in the movement against AFSPA and it would be extremely cynical and a wrong representation of the facts to say that the fast has turned out to be a failure after it is withdrawn,” Dr. Sen said.

Source- Ht and Hindu

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