Imphal: Manipur’s Iron Lady, Irom Sharmila, has stopped her fast. And her people find that hard to digest. Offered a home with a friend – 4 kms from her hospital — the 44 year-old found the gates of the locality barred. Even the local ISKCON temple did not offer her a place to stay.
Disappointed, Sharmila had to return to the hospital where she had been living for the last 16 years, force-fed from time to time.
Late on Wednesday evening, Sharmila was offered a shelter by the Manipur chapter of Indian Red Cross, where she can stay till an alternative is found. “When I saw the news reports that Sharmila had nowhere to go, I felt very bad,” said Dr Y Mohan Singh, honorary secretary of the Indian Red Cross Society, Manipur. “We discussed the issue threadbare, since there are many social and security considerations.
But finally we decided unanimously that we must give her shelter on humanitarian grounds,” Mr Singh said. Back at the hospital, Sharmila drank Horlicks mixed with honey and spoke of her heartbreak. “They misunderstood my step. I didn’t give up on my struggle, I have just changed my tactic,” she said. “I want them so much to know me, not their version of me. Their harsh reaction to an innocent human being… They were very harsh.” She lapsed into silence.
“I personally felt very bad when we turned Sharmila away,” said Dr TH Suresh, who had offered her a home. “But locals felt that her presence may cause security problems as militant groups have threatened her.”
But outside his office, a young student said, “Irom Sharmila has let down the battle against AFSPA so we don’t want her here. She had started her agitation. She should have ended it.” On her way back from vegetable market, a woman of around Sharmila’s age, said: “Sharmila has the right to live her life, marry and have a family. But to start to an agitation against AFSPA and then leaving it half way… it is just not done.”
The anger against Sharmila is evident on the streets of Imphal. But it is not universal. Social worker Victor rose strongly in her defence. “We are doing her a great injustice. Irom Sharmila has the right to lead her own life,” he said.