Irom Sharmila to fight for Kashmiri women’s rights

ST Correspondent
Saturday, 12 May 2018

With her 16-year-long fast for justice, which she quit around two years ago, Irom Sharmila has become the face of the struggle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1976, in parts of Northeast India and Jammu and Kashmir.

I will neither go the political way nor fast again: Activist

Pune: With her 16-year-long fast for justice, which she quit around two years ago, Irom Sharmila has become the face of the struggle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1976, in parts of Northeast India and Jammu and Kashmir.

Famously called the Iron Lady of India, Irom became a national and even global figure with the fast that she began on November 4, 2000, after the killing of 10 civilians by soldiers of the Assam Rifles in Manipur, her hometown.

On her first visit to Pune and Maharashtra, Irom, on Friday, interacted with members of the civil society after a brief meeting with anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare on Thursday. Having ended her fast on August 9, 2016, Irom got married to Desmond Coutinho, an Indian-origin British national and her long-time friend, who now accompanies her to support her fight.

Irom, who decided to take the electoral route immediately after concluding her fast, had lost the elections and now swears to not take that route again. “I will neither go the political way nor fast again,” she says while informing the audience of her decision to now fight for the rights of Kashmiri women along with Sarhad, a Pune-based organisation that works with people in the border states of India. After a year’s break from public life, Irom says that this “is the right plan, whether I like it or not”. No life is less valuable than another, she says, and hence “fighting for the rights of anyone who is unheard is justified.”

Speaking of her struggle back home in Manipur, she says that she had become the face of the anti-AFSPA movement and hence people didn’t want her to end her fast. “But I believe that only love and kindness is the solution to our issues and hence I have decided to work for the empowerment of Kashmiri women,” she concludes.

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