It is painful to see the very people for whose rights you fought for 16 longs years by sacrificing your own body turn you away. That is exactly what Irom Sharmila felt when a residential locality she wanted to live in after ending her historic fast did not let her stay.
So, the 44-year-old ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur is now back in the same place where she had been living in for 16 years of her fasting – the special ward in the JNIMS hospital.
The only difference this time is that Sharmila is not here as a prisoner but a patient. The other noteworthy difference is that she is trying to eat from her mouth rather than the tube fitted into her nose.
Locals are reportedly unhappy that Sharmila broke her fast against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
Many of those who stood by her during her fast have now turned their backs.
The political implication of her decision can be gauged from the fact that even the ISKON temple in Imphal refused to give her shelter.
Following her return to the hospital, which she calls “my world”, Sharmila said, “They want me to remain a martyr forever. But I can’t always be a martyr.”
Commenting on the manner her people shunned her, Sharmila said, “At that moment, I felt the best thing for them would have been beating me to death. What is the difference between being beaten to death or dying from fasting. Not much.”
Sharmila said that by choosing to join politics, she has only changed her tactic against AFSPA and not leave the struggle against the law mid-way as some locals believe.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross Hospital in Imphal has offered her shelter, but Sharmila is struggling to eat properly. Doctors say that her stomach is fine but the esophagus has been non-operational for years.
Yet being a fighter, Sharmila believes she’ll be able to overcome this slight physical impediment.