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Sharmila backs AAP

Imphal, March 13: Rights crusader Irom Sharmila has rejected chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s offer to join the Congress and instead extended her support to the Aam Aadmi Party led by Arvind Kejriwal.

“The chief minister came on an unannounced visit in February and asked me to join his party for jointly taking up the issue of repealing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. I did not give any response to the invitation,” Sharmila told reporters today.

Ten days after Ibobi Singh’s offer, AAP leader Prashant Bhushan requested Sharmila over phone to stand as a party candidate for the Lok Sabha polls but she turned down the offer as well. However, she fancies Arvind Kejriwal and his team and hopes for a “return of democracy”, if the party comes to power. “The barely two-month-long rule by the AAP in Delhi gave the people a taste of real democracy. The party inspires citizens with their firm stand against corruption and VIP culture,” Sharmila said.

Speaking on Ibobi Singh’s visit, Sharmila said the chief minister stormed out of her room after she raised a case of rape of a village chief’s daughter in Churachandpur district by security forces several years back.

“I am simple protester. I don’t want to join politics. But I want to see a government run by the AAP installed in New Delhi. The meeting with Ibobi Singh lasted for about five minutes. I tried to stop him from walking out by holding his shirt but he didn’t stop,” she said.

Praising AAP, Sharmila said those associated with the party were not after power or ministerial berths, unlike ministers of other parties. “If I am allowed to vote, I will caste my vote for AAP.”

Manipur has an AAP unit but the party is yet to announce its candidates for the state’s two Lok Sabha seats.

This evening, an Imphal court released Sharmila at the end of her one-year term for the offence of “attempting to commit suicide”.

Release and re-arrest have become an annual ritual since Sharmila began her fast on Novemebr 5, 2000, demanding repeal of the army act. She was released on March 12 last year and sent back to captivity the next day after she refused to end her fast.

Sharmila came out of her room in the security ward of Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences today and spent hours by leaning on the locked gate waiting for the arrival of the release order.

After she was freed, she walked to the office of Sharmila Kanba Lup, a support group, close to the main gate of the hospital. Surrounded by supporters, Sharmila said, “I will not end my struggle until the act is repealed.”