Irom Sharmila Prepares to Contest Manipur Polls Early 2017
NEW DELHI: “I feel alive” said the indomitable woman of Manipur Irom Sharmila with a broad smile, when asked how she was feeling now that she had given up the long fast for repealing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
In Delhi, The Citizen met her for an interview along with Newsclick, and found her a little weak, but full of beans. She has many plans and is clearly working on a political strategy that will help her form a political party to contest the next Manipur Assembly elections, but also spread across the North East to help answer the peoples aspirations.
Asked if she will have an understanding or alliance with parties like the BJP or the Congress, she shakes her head in denial, but says that she had met Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Arvind Kejriwal at his invitation. She seemed to endorse his fight against corruption, and was positive in her references to him. The doughty young woman was particularly critical of the money and muscle power used by political parties and politicians, saying her effort would be to cut across these controls to bring in a clean, transparent organisation.
Irom Sharmila said that she was working to set up this party with a comprehensive agenda. And was optimistic that they would be up and running well in time for the next Assembly elections.
She said that her decision to bring her 16 year old fast to an end was not sudden, but thought out. She admits that the demand for repealing AFSPA was not listened to by successive governments, as it impacts on the people, and not those in power. She said that the struggle will continue, and her focus will remain in bringing an end to this draconian law. Non violence will remain her theme, in Manipur and across the country.
Although she has ended the fast, she is sticking to her resolve not to comb her hair, cut her nails, or meet her mother until she succeeds in getting AFSPA repealsed. She met her mother accidentally at the hospital but has resolved not to meet her again. She has added one more self imposed condition to these, not to get married until the Act giving immunity to the Army is repealed. Earlier she had spoken of a desire to marry but she said that she has now decided not to do so until she achieves “my goal.”
In response to a question Irom Sharmila admitted that some groups had been critical of her when she decided to end the fast. But said that she has subsequently met with many, and they are all on the same page now. She has their support again.
Manipur is due for elections before March next year. This means that Sharmila will be announcing her new party, very soon. Probably on her return from New Delhi. Her party is likely to be a major factor in the next polls, with a weakened Congress and an assertive BJP being her main contenders.
After Assam, the BJP has been working to win Manipur as part of its strategy to control the North Eastern states. BJP President Amit Shah has already declared that he will win Manipur. RSS/BJP leader Ram Madhav has echoed this, maintaining that the party will come to power in the elections next year.
Irom Sharmila as the new alternative thus, could have a significant role as a party with Kejriwal expected now to campaign for her. It will project itself as a corruption-free party, without muscle or money, wedded to the people of Manipur, with the objective of ridding the state and the region of AFSPA and bringing in a just social order.