Sharmila blamed for planning marriage

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LOOKEAST REPORT

In a sharp turnaround of events, the iron lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila Chanu has now been physically threatened for calling off her fast and for her decision to marry an ‘outsider’ and contest polls.

After sixteen years of fast that has nearly destroyed her body and weakened her resolve, Irom Sharmila finally decided to call off her indefinite strike and marry a Goan-British activist.

That seems to have not gone down well with a Manipur-based radical social organisation.

That organisation has gone to the extent of warning Sharmila, asking her not to contest elections and marry an “outsider”.

Irom and her Goan born British friend Desmond Coutinho

Irom and her Goan born British friend Desmond Coutinho

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 most important such person would be the legendary leader of the PLA, Nameirakpam Bisheswar Singh, who led the first batch of PLA to China for training, but was later murdered when he joined politics and contested elections.

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.

legendary leader of the PLA, Nameirakpam Bisheswar Singh, who led the first batch of PLA to China for training, but was later murdered when he joined politics and contested elections

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.

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