Imphal, March 12: Human rights crusader Irom Sharmila does not expect the Okram Ibobi Singh government of Manipur to listen to her voice and repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in near future, but she remains as firm as ever to continue her campaign till her goal is achieved.
Sharmila was released from jail this afternoon on completion of a one-year term for “attempting to commit suicide”. She has been on a hunger strike for more than 12 years demanding repeal of the AFSPA.
“They (ministers and MLAs) were all contractors and businessmen earlier. All captured power by buying votes. So these people cannot feel the sentiments of the people. But I will not change my stand and will continue the fast till the act is repealed,” Sharmila told reporters after coming out of jail.
She accused chief minister Ibobi Singh and his ministers of amassing wealth. She continued her fast after stepping out of jail and walked towards Save Sharmila Campaign office along with her supporters drawn from all communities.
Sharmila believes she could move the “indifferent” government if the people join her in the struggle with full support. “I want the people to stand by me. If necessary, they should also go to jail like me. Only then we can force the government to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” Sharmila said.
Earlier today, she appeared before the chief judicial magistrate, Imphal East, Ronald Keishing, who freed her from judicial custody.
Three rights activists — Faisal Khan from Delhi, Arvind Murthy from Uttar Pradesh and Deepak Joshi from Gujarat came here and began a 24-hour hunger strike from 6am this morning to show solidarity with Sharmila.
She was given the name eche (elder sister) by Save Democracy, Repeal AFSPA Group, a nationwide Sharmila support group on International Women’s Day.
A group of slogan-shouting supporters accompanied Sharmila once she stepped out of the jail ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences and walked to Save Sharmila Campaign fast venue, a distance of about 300 metres.
In a light violet phanek (long skirt) and a blue shawl Sharmila took long and firm strides as her supporters shouted “Repeal AFSPA” and “Save Sharmila”. She is expected to be taken back to jail either late tomorrow or the day after.
“It is a ritual of release and re-arrest. I am prepared to undergo all these annual rituals. We need a chief minister who has guts like Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah who boldly spoke against the act,” she said.