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Like Mother Like Daughter, Sharmila Draws Strength From Mom’s Support

IMPHAL, Nov 4: Like Father Like Son, is a saying we have grown used to but for once let’s change the gender and see how the courage and conviction of the frail Sakhi Devi, mother of Irom Chanu Sharmila has been a pillar of strength and inspiration to her daughter.

Draped in a shawl, Sakhi Devi recalled the happy days spent with Sharmila, who is the youngest child while talking with this reporter at their Kongpal Kongkham Leikai residence in Imphal East.

Even as hordes of civil bodies, social activists and human rights defenders are currently observing Sharmila’s decade old hunger strike demanding the revocation of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), her mother has maintained a stoic silence which speaks volumes and is a silent but strong pillar of strength and sustenance which keeps Sharmila going.

‘It was on a chilly and windy winter evening on this day ten years ago, that my daughter came up to me and asked for my blessing for a humane cause she was about to undertake,’ an emotional Sakhi said with tears trickling down her 78 year old withered face.

‘I was at the kitchen garden when she came to ask for the blessing and for a while I could not take a definite decision. However knowing her determination and will power and on seeing the zeal in her eyes, I consented, gave her my blessings and to return home after achieving what she has set out to do,’ she added.

Sakhi said that she really did not know what cause or course of action Sharmila had in her mind, when she came to seek her blessings.  The next day (November 4, 2000) she came to know that her daughter had launched a hunger strike against AFSPA at Malom in Imphal West where Assam Rifles troops had mowed down ten civilians on November 2.

‘As a mother I feel the pangs and sorrow of my daughter being separated from us and put under judicial custody. However I am still committed to the decision not to meet her until her daughter’s mission is accomplished, which is revoking AFSPA,’ added the mother.

The only communication she shared with Sharmila was a letter sent to her saying ‘My dear daughter, keep up with your struggle. The only advice I have, is to encourage your mission and that the almighty God always guides you.’

She (Sakhi), however, prepared Chingkhi (an indigenous liquid solution for washing hair especially for women) for Sharmila every Sunday at the security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital close to her residence and it was sent by her family members.    Youngest among nine siblings of five boys and four girls, Sharmila was a calm and hard working girl, Sakhi, a widow said adding ‘even two days ahead of embarking her on her mission, Sharmila helped us in harvesting the paddy field.’

Showing solidarity to her cause, the calm family members have not been taking part in ‘˜Ningol Chakouba’- the biggest festival for Manipuri women, since she began her fast since November 2000.  ‘We stand by her cause. This year’s Ningol Chakkouba falls on November 8 and we will not celebrate it. When Sharmila is fasting for a cause why should we celebrate Chakouba,’ quipped the iron lady’s sister-in-law, Muhini Devi. With a mother like Sakhi, we at least have some knowledge of the inner strength that keeps Sharmila going.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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