Imphal, March 13: Manipur rights crusader Irom Sharmila, taken back to the jail where she has spent over 12 years fasting for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, was in for a disappointment today at the dwindling number of her supporters.
Barely 20 supporters were with her on the eve of her 41st birthday when a police team came to the Save Sharmila Campaign office this evening to take her back to the jail ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences.
“I would have felt happier if at least 100 people were by my side to share my good and bad experiences. But this is not happening. I am disappointed,” Sharmila told The Telegraph earlier in the day today.
Last year, when she was taken back to jail, the number of supporters with her was much more. After she was freed from jail yesterday on the completion of a yearlong term, Sharmila continued her fast at the Save Sharmila Campaign office from where the police came to fetch her.
She did not sleep the whole night and the day today. Instead, she spent the night and this day, leaning on a bamboo pole for support, and talking to the handful of supporters.
She refused to drink water and to let a medical team check her condition this afternoon. The team was sent by the government, which is concerned about her health.
Despite the disappointment, Sharmila was in good health and spirits.
With clenched fists or holding her shawl drawn tightly around her, Sharmila did not tire of speaking her mind on a wide range of issues, including corruption, misuse of power by those in the government, problem of drugs, unemployment and crimes against women.
When she was tired of talking, she took breaks to read articles in a vernacular monthly magazine, Nupeegi punshi (Women’s Life).
“I am a soldier. I am in the middle of a battle and fighting every day. The days do not make any difference whether I am out of jail or inside the jail,” she said when asked whether she had any specific plan like reading books and writing poems inside the jail on her birthday tomorrow.
She has spent more than 12 years in jail fighting for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. She also did not want any programmes to celebrate her birthday tomorrow. “I am hoping one day I can celebrate my birthday as a free and normal human being after the army act has been repealed,” she said.
When a police team came to pick up her more than 24 hours after she was freed, Sharmila did not resist.
Her supporters also did not try to prevent the police from taking her away.
The re-arrest was peaceful without noisy scenes and slogan shouting.