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Manipur government has disappointed me: Irom Sharmila

NEW DELHI: She hasn’t touched a morsel of food for over 14 years and, in these years, has courted as many arrests. In the national capital to argue against the Delhi Police’s charges of suicide, Irom says that the Manipur government and the Manipuri people have disappointed her.

“I don’t see my fasting as a punishment; it is my duty. Yet, I feel somewhat dissatisfied with the local people. I, too, am part of contemporary Manipuri society, so why should they isolate me; celebrate me and sing my glories but act but behave like I have passed away?” says the 43-year-old crusader, fighting against the imposition of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Irom talks about the her relationship with Desmond Coutinho, her British-origin Goa-based partner, to which friends, family and the Manipuri society in general seem to be opposed. “After nine years of struggle, I found a like-minded man, and we decided that we will get married if AFSPA is repealed,” she says. “But the people of my state were unkind to him, and blamed all the failures and misgivings of the movement on us. What they forget is that I’m not just a Meitei, not just a woman, I’m a human being,” she said.

In the court, Irom argued that she was falsely implicated in a case of suicide, and that violence alone cannot solve problems. “The Constitution can be amended to to suit the needs of our leaders. So, why can’t it be amended to suit the needs of the people,” she asks. “By imposing AFSPA, the government, politicians, NGOs and state agents are gathering a lot of dirty money.”

She urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal AFSPA before he goes to the UN to ask for a permanent seat. “A lot of people were dissenting against Modi’s tactics of governance based on violence when he was the chief minister of Gujarat because it is so contradictory to the father of the nation, who was also from Gujarat,” she said. 

Speaking on the months-long protests against the Manipur Land Reforms Bill, Irom said that the root cause was the Constitution. “They want to amend the Constitution to allow the hilly people of the state to buy areas in the valley, but not allow the same rights to the people in the valley,” she said. “The condition will soon enough be comparable to Tripura, where the native people now have a minority status.”   

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