Human Rights Activist Irom Sharmila may have come to Kerala looking for a “peaceful and tranquil break'' from Manipur politics after the humiliating loss she suffered in the recent elections to the Manipur Assembly. But the state and its Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA)—against which she led her sixteen-year-old struggle without eating a single morsel—are still very much the centre of her existence.
This was evident when she travelled all the way to Thiruvananthapuram from the tribal hamlet in Palakkkad district to meet Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan seeking their support against AFSPA. She also met senior CPI(M) leader V.S. Achuthanandan seeking the same.
That Sharmila is more than welcome in the state ruled by the CPI(M) was evident when hundreds had gathered to receive her at the railway station. Many were seen trying to take selfies with her. But she stopped them saying: “no selfies”. But she, in her traditional white and red attire, was only happy to be photographed. Apparently, she has an aversion towards selfies.
The DYFI district committee was her official host and it had lined up all the meeting on her behalf. After meeting the CM and the CPI(M) state secretary, Sharmila said that both had extended their support for the cause.
When asked about her future plans she said that she had quit electoral politics forever, but added that the political part she had formed would stay. She said though her defeat in the election was expected, the magnitude of the defeat was unexpected.
Sharmila said she was happy to be in Kerala and was surprised by the love that Keralites showered on her. She also said she had got a lot of support for her fight against AFPSA.
DYFI Thiruvananthapuram district secretary Adv I. Saju told The WEEK that she had approached the party in Palakkad seeking an audience with the political leadership in the state. “She wanted to create a consensus against AFSPA and was very happy after meeting the leaders,'' said Saju.
Sharmila, after spending the night in Thiruvananthapuram, will be heading to Idukki on Tuesday to address a women's camp being organised by the State Youth Commission.
Sharmila, who contested the Manipur Assembly elections under the banner of the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA) against Chief Minister Ibobi Singh, could secure only 90 votes. She had ended her 16-year-long fast in August 2016, announcing her wish to contest the elections to ‘bring about a positive change’ in Manipur. Ever since her arrival in Kerala on March 14, Sharmila had been spending time in Attapadi, one of the largest tribal settlements of Kerala.