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Family Goads Sharmila To Carry On Unhindered

Dignified and determined lone crusader, Irom Sharmila Chanu. Image Credit: The Sangai Express.

IMPHAL, Jan 10: Asserting that ‘˜Iron Lady of ManipurIrom Chanu Sharmila should not give up  her struggle until fulfillment of the public demand for withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, her brothers, sisters, sisters-in-law and above all her doting mother have encouraged her to carry on relentlessly.

Born on March 14, 1972 at Kongpal Kongkham Leikai and loving call Mengoubi by her family members, Sharmila, the youngest sibling of five brothers and three sisters born to late Irom Nanda Singh and Irom Ongbi Shakhi Devi, has been on a fast unto death agitation for more than 10 years now demanding repeal of AFSPA, which gives sweeping power to the armed forces.

Much water have flown down the Imphal river since the day Sharmila left home and began her struggle, and many changes have come about in her family, for the worse or for the better. But all along her family has been steadfastly behind Sharmila and they wished that the Nura Temshingnabi should return home triumphant.

Sharmila launched her fast unto death agitation to demand repeal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act after the infamous Malom massacre on November 2, 2000 in which troops of 8 Assam Rifles killed 10 civilians and inflicted injuries to several others in indiscriminate firing.

57-year old Irom Raghumani, the second elder brother of Sharmila said, ‘˜’˜it would be good to see her coming home triumphant. If she gives up her struggle midway, then she is gutless”.

Among many changes that have been witnessed in the family after Sharmila sacrifices herself to the  public cause for repealing Armed Forces Special Powers Act, her family members have not been celebrating Ningol Chakkouba, the biggest festival in Manipur, for the last 10 years.

Raghumani further said, ‘˜’˜Of course, it is sad that she left home and it is all the sadder when Ningol Chakkouba comes. Since the day she left home, we have not been celebrating Ningol Chakkouba”.

After Sharmila resolutely started her agitation, her third elder brother, Irom Singhajit, who was in service as an Agriculture Officer at Citizens’ Volunteer Training Centre for 15 years, took voluntary retirement to take care of his sister.

Retirement from service was a great blow to Singhajit, who by then was already a father of three children. He became a human rights activist and could not even ensure a proper income to run his tiny family. He had to sell his Ingkhol and paddy field. Two of his sons who were studying in Tiny Tots’ School have to leave and enroll in Government school. The financial position of his family had become so bad that during 2002 and 2003, he ran a hotel roofed with polythene selling Tea on the roadside of Kongpal Kongkham Leikai Irom Leirak to supplement the income of the family. Still then, Singhajit pledged, ‘˜I will support the struggle of my younger sister Mengoubi till she achieves success”.

Wife of Singhajit and sister in law of Sharmila, Shanti recalled, ‘˜’˜before Sharmila went ahead with her struggle, we were not able to take active part in various issues of the State. Now, we are at the forefront”.

On the active role that Singhajit has been playing in connection with the struggle of his younger sister Sharmila, Shanti informed, ‘˜’˜He (Singhajit) has not been able to stay and rest in the house most of the time these days. He went out early morning and return home late night. He does not care about his personal grooming even”.

Sorokhaibam Ongbi Bijenti, the third elder sister of Sharmila said, ‘˜’˜The Government has remained quiet after it knows that the resolute stand of Sharmila. Earlier, none of the male members in the family were to stay quietly at home with police coming to arrest them and chasing them everywhere they go. With the solid support of the family, friends, locality and public, we can now face them”.

Mother of Sharmila, 75-year old Shakhi has not been able to find peace even for a moment in her mellow years of life thinking about the well-being of her daughter. Yet she prays to God everyday for the success of her Mengoubi’s struggle.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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