Disowned by her own people for deciding to end her 16-year-old fast, Irom Sharmila, all set to join politics, knows that the road ahead will not be easy. While fighting for the cause of Manipur, reaching out to her own people will be the greatest challenge that she needs to overcome now. Sharmila told The Sunday Guardian, “Everyone criticises politics, but I want to be in politics to clean it.”

“Manipur’s Iron Lady” did anticipate the backlash from her own. Expressing her anguish, Sharmila told this newspaper: “They want me to be a statue without a voice.” 

Failing to find a shelter since ending her fast on Tuesday, Sharmila was brought back to the special ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences where she had spent her past 16 years. However, Sharmila has made it very clear that she would not return home unless she meets her commitment of repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Manipur. After a lot of deliberations, the Indian Red Cross Society, Manipur branch, has offered her shelter.

Once a close aide of Sharmila, Renu Takhellambam said: “Irom’s decision to discontinue her hunger strike is her personal decision. We were neither informed nor consulted by her. But the people of Manipur are not happy with her decision to join politics. It’s an opportunist move.”

However, the Janata Dal (United) has stepped in to offer her political support. Though Sharmila did not turn down the offer, she expressed her desire to contest the 2017 state Assembly polls as an Independent candidate from the Thoubal Assembly constituency. She also took a dig at the ongoing separatist movement in the Kashmir valley. Sharmila told The Sunday Guardian: “I don’t believe in violence. People of Kashmir must have self-determination to achieve their goal.” She also condemned the alleged rising attacks on Dalits.

On her plans to settle down in life, she said: “It is natural to fall in love. It is a basic instinct that cannot be overcome by anyone. I, too, would like to have a family, but don’t know by when.” She acknowledged that her decision to marry would not be taken in the true spirit by her own people.

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