An Hour with Irom Sharmila

By Mahtab Alam,

Irom Chanu Sharmila is in Delhi today, nay, she was in Delhi today. For, by the time you read this, she will be back to her 15 by 10 ft. room of the security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal (Manipur), where she has been kept in judicial custody since 13 years.  She was brought to Delhi yesterday to be produced before a Sessions Judge at the Patiala House Court.

Her crime?

According to the Police, Irom Sharmila ‘attempted to commit suicide’, which is a crime under section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. But Sharmila contests this charge by saying, “No, I love life and I want to live like a normal human being. I don’t want to kill myself but I only want justice and peace.”

Today, when I met her for the first time at the Court, I was amazed to see her levels of energy, strength and optimism. How could someone manage to be so energetic and full of life, I asked myself? That, after going through so much of pain. It was incredible to see her talking, answering oft-repeated questions of journalists, friends and supporters, patiently.

Irom Sharmila at Patiala House Court. Picture by Ravi Nitesh
Irom Sharmila at Patiala House Court. Picture by Ravi Nitesh

I didn’t ask any question. What should I have asked? Neither did I introduce myself to her. How would I have introduced myself to her? I am an activist who has tried raising awareness about AFSPA and Her struggle through my writings and activism? Seriously speaking, I found saying all that very embarrassing and funny. What is my position in front of her struggle and commitment to the cause of human rights? Hence, I preferred to listen. Yes, we didn’t talk with each other but we exchanged smiles. And the priceless smile on her face is going to be a source of inspiration whenever and wherever I will be in trouble or going through a difficult time.

I didn’t have any gift or service to offer to her, nor were we allowed to do so. In fact, to my pleasant surprise and good luck, we were allowed to interact with her beyond the stipulated time of 5 minutes. The only service that I could offer her today was to fan her with a booklet while she was talking to journalists and supporters. And I am really happy that I got the opportunity to do that. The last time I tried to meet her, I was not allowed to, citing security reasons.

During our hour long meeting, she reiterated that “I want to live. I want to lead a normal life like most of you. I want to eat and taste different food. I am interested in love, marriage and romance but all of these would only be possible when AFSPA is repealed”. Affirming her pledge that she would continue her struggle till the day AFSPA is repealed, she said, “The moment AFSPA is repealed, I will eat whatever that is available in front of me.”

On being asked if there was any message that she would like us to carry forward, she emphasized on continuing the non-violent struggles against all sorts of injustice. “Peace, love and non-violence are the only solution to everything,” she asserted time and again during our meeting. She also asked her supporters to read her writings, mainly, poetry. “My writings are my weapon for my struggle, they speak my mind and that is where I feel natural.”

Towards the end of our meeting, she hoped that her next birthday (14th March ’15) would coincide with the repeal of AFSPA. And after that, she would be free to lead a normal life. She was at a loss of words while saying this, but the conviction on her face was more than enough to convey what she wanted to say. Let’s hope and pray that she will not be disappointed this time.


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