Room No. 1 of the Special Ward at the Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences is a turquoise walled haven that has faded into pastel hue as it previously hosted Irom Sharmila, the ‘Iron Lady of Manipur’ for over 16 years.
Irom Sharmila has been a continual face of non-violent struggle against injustice for a very long period. Her protest has been criticised by the government and she has been arrested on the charges of attempted suicide repeatedly. So much for a non-violent display of opinion. Nandita Haksar puts it very well when she says, “All these years, the media and activists have separated Sharmila from her context – social as well as political. Journalists have extolled her phenomenal patience, but have not tried to understand or tell us what the source of this endurance is.”
Having broken her fast on 9 August 2016, Sharmila attempted to contest the Manipur Assembly Elections 2017 this time. Her, Contesting the election as an independent was more of a symbol than a political ingress. Her winning would have amounted to a lot of significance as then she would have command over authority, where she could put in efforts to repeal AFSPA, which has always been her furthest agenda. Recieved love and support from not only people in Manipur but also various other National and International organisations, in all this deserving respect, she didn’t realize the muddle that was politics, she was entering.
A Disappointing Retrospect
Having obtained a mere 90 votes to the 18,649 votes polled in three-time Chief Minister Obobi’s favour, Sharmila got only 0.33% of the votes of her constituency, Thoubal. Today, she cries tears of disappointment innately as she says that she’s done with politics and resigns to her fate. More people chose the None of the Above (NOTA) option (143 votes). For the people of Manipur, she was not even an option. Displaying astute virtues of selflessness and after doing so much for her state, such a response would shatter even the most crude of hearts. Many people deemed her as an incompetent political player, despite taking cognizance of her efforts, in general. As convincingly said, “Irom Sharmila’s loss is not a reflection of her popularity in the state, but the contemplation of her shortcomings as a political leader.”
Why She lost the elections
Despite incompetent Congress rule for the past 15 years, for voters, the choice existed between BJP and the Congress itself, with PRJA (Sharmila’s Peoples’ Resurgence and Justice Alliance Party) not even being close to an option. Another paradigm to this situation can also be viewed, as the possible reason she lost the electoral battle was the day, Sharmila decided to break her fast. “I want to get married” is what she spoke during a press conference that occurred to redress all questions. Such a statement was overt enough to put up explicable damage. The people of Manipur didn’t expect their leader to forego the fast due to a personal reason. Blaming her for attempting to cover-up her lapse by contesting elections and asking for votes, the people of Manipur had their priorities in choosing an experienced leader with political acumen, quite clear. Defending the people of Manipur, some remarked that “For those who are blaming the people of Manipur for doing injustice to Irom, should also know that her sudden decision did more injustice to the people of Manipur.”
An elegy for Indian Democracy
Having viewed both sides of the coin, all that can be said is there is an inconclusive end to this story. Recently in a Facebook post on Sunday, Sharmila thanked all the 90 voters that voted for her. ‘Thanks for 90 votes..’ was what she had typed. Someone in the comments section summed all our feelings by saying, “Irom Sharmila has in just four short words, written an elegy for Indian democracy.”