All eyes on Irom Sharmila, as she ends her 16-year fast on tomorrow


New Delhi: On Tuesday, all eyes will be on Irom Sharmila Chanu when she appears in the court of the Chief Judicial Magistrate, Imphal West. On July 26, Ms. Sharmila had announced that she planned to end her 16-year-fast for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Manipur on August 9.

She is also aiming to contest in 2017 Manipur elections. But, some radical groups have warned her of her decision. According to reports, Alliance for Socialist Unity, formed by the Kangleipak Yawol Kunna Lup and the Kangleipak Communist Party has asked her to continue her fast, reminding the 44-year-old of “some former revolutionary leaders who were assassinated” for joining politics and forgetting the cause they spent years fighting for, according to media report.

They also said Sharmila should not marry a “non-local man”. “Even though the man is an NRI, he is still an Indian in the eyes of the people of Kangleipak (core of Manipur),” the group said. Sharmila has been involved with Goan born British citizen Desmond Coutinho for the last few years. Their relationship has faced criticism from within the Manipuri community and from pressure groups such as the Meira Paibis, who have alleged Coutinho was trying to sway Sharmila and derail their movement to repeal AFSPA.

For the last 16 years, Sharmila, popularly known as the Iron Lady of Manipur, has lived under house arrest as an undertrial prisoner in room number one in the special ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. She has been force fed through her nose the entire time — the Ryles tube used to feed her has become a symbol of Manipur’s fight against AFSPA.

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