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Sharmila visits women’s market to drum up support

- Rights activist glad to be blessed, says ultimate happiness lies in repeal of army act
Members of women’s market welcome Sharmila on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos

Imphal, Aug. 21: A day after she was freed from jail, Irom Sharmila visited the women’s market to meet vendors and offer prayers to Keithel Lairembi (goddess of the market) to seek support for her struggle.

Sharmila was released from jail yesterday after chief judicial magistrate A. Noutuneshwari Devi ordered her release on the basis of an order passed by sessions judge A. Guneshwar Sharma, who dismissed the charge against Sharmila that she was attempting to commit suicide.

Before her visit to the market, Sharmila discussed with her supporters the next course of action at the fasting site, located outside Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital here, from where she was released yesterday.

This is the first time that Sharmila has moved out of her fasting place since she began her hunger strike on November 5, 2000 demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act from Manipur. Her fast was triggered by the killing of 10 civilians by the Assam Rifles at a bus stand at Malom in Imphal West to retaliate against a militant attack.

“I am very happy with the support and blessings of the women vendors. But my happiness will be complete only when the act is repealed,” she said.

Sharmila’s supporters took her to the market here from the fasting venue in a car, after she expressed her desire to meet the women vendors.

On getting information of her visit, women vendors came out of the market in large numbers and waited on Bir Tikendrajit Road for a glimpse of the “iconic lady”.

Imphal city has three women-run market complexes, where the vendors sell vegetables, fish, clothes and snacks, among others.

About 50 police personnel, including women officers, had a tough time controlling the crowd which created traffic chaos.

Sharmila went to one of the three market complexes and offered prayers to Keithel Lairembi to seek blessings of the goddess for her struggle. She then met the waiting vendors who presented garlands and clothes to her as her supporters chanted “long live Sharmila” and “repeal AFSPA”.

At one point of time, Sharmila had to sit and take rest on the market steps. Her supporters tended to her till she felt better.

“I went to the market to give the wake-up call. It is time for the people of Manipur to wake up and join the struggle for repeal of the act. I want to take food, live like a normal person. Let’s fight together, bring a solution to the issue (army act), then let’s eat together, walk together and live together peacefully,” she said.

She renewed her appeal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to listen to the voice of the people and ensure right to life of Indian citizens by repealing the act.