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Irom Sharmila to end 16-year hunger strike; wants to live a 'normal life'

irom-sharmila Political activist Irom Sharmila

Iconic political activist Irom Sharmila on Tuesday told the Imphal district court that she will end her fast, which she began 16 years ago demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

At around 11 am when she was produced before the court, she moved her bail petition saying, “I want to end the hunger strike today and want to be freed as there would be no reason for my detention.”

She further said, “I feel extremely isolated. I will continue to fight for my cause, but in a different way.”

The court, granting her bail on personal bond, slated the next hearing in the case for August 23.

Following the court proceedings, Sharmila returned to judicial custody and was taken back to the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Hospital, where she would be given food under medical supervision as she hasn't eaten for nearly 16 years.

Representatives from major political parties, including BJP, JD(U) sans Congress, were present at the court on Tuesday to meet Sharmila and convince her to join their party. However, they were unable to meet her.

Sharmila, on July 26, had announced that she aspires to enter politics and contest next year's assembly elections as an independent candidate from Imphal.

Once she is granted bail and is discharged from the hospital, where Sharmila would stay?

She has proposed three places, where she would like to stay, including the same hospital where she has been held in custody and was being forced-fed through a nasal tube for more than 14 years. Her choice to stay in the hospital shows the relationship she has developed with the doctors and nursing staff, who took good care of her and kept her alive all these years.

The other two places in Sharmila's list are a children's home and the Iskcon temple in Imphal. The Manipur government, however, would decide on it.

On the other hand, she does not want to return home and meet her mother, Sakhi Devi, who had once refused to meet her.

“What can we do, if she does not want to come back? In fact my mother also don't want her to return home without fulfilling the promise she made 16 years ago,” said Singhajit Singh, Sharmila’s eldest brother.

Coming out of the court, Sharmila said, “I want to live a normal life. There should not be any restriction on my freedom of speech and expression. None should gag me and should allow me to express my views. And, yes I want to get married.”

But, the man she wants to marry, Bruno Coutinho, was missing from the court premise. In fact, he is said to be the reason behind Sharmila's decision to quit her epic fast.

There were grumpy faces in the court as many activists were unhappy about Sharmila's decision. They blamed Coutinho for putting an end to one of the “finest agitations in the world”.

“He would not be able to enter Imphal, for sure,” said W.K.Singh, an activist.

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