Hours after Irom Sharmila, the iconic activist who didn’t eat for 16 years in protest against alleged army atrocities in Manipur, broke her fast and left the hospital, she tried to enter the Kaisampat area of Imphal town but was prevented by people upset with her from breaking the hunger strike.
The frail, wiry 44-year-old had left, for the last time, the prison hospital in which she spent years being force-fed through a plastic tube after being arrested for attempted suicide.
Her next stop was the local police station where she spent some time discussing where she would like to stay. She had earlier given three options to the police: Iskon temple ashram, a children’s home or the hospital itself.
The police then escorted her to Iskon, but there authorities and the police felt the ashram did not have enough medical facilities. Irom Sharmila’s health is fragile after 16 years of fasting, so they brought her to the Jawaharlal hospital again.
Irom is reportedly ‘dejected’ by the public reception she received. Imphal is divided about the fast being broken.
The Meira Paibis, a powerful organisation of mothers, are upset because they feel that Ms Sharmila’s fast will weaken the fight against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act or AFSPA in Manipur that gives the army sweeping emergency powers to search, enter property and shoot on sight. The organization had protested at court this afternoon and reportedly this evening at Kaisampat.
For a section of her supporters and family, the end of the long fast is a big, disconcerting change.
Bombarded with questions about her plans, Irom had, haltingly but defiantly said: “This is my life. I want equality… I am called the Iron Lady of Manipur and I want to live up to it.”
She wants to contest the Manipur election next year as an independent candidate.