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11 Dec 2023, Edition - 3072, Monday

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Í want to, but can’t stop activism, says iconic activist Irom Sharmila

AR Meyyammai


The Covai Post Exclusive

Kodaikanal: Now that Irom Sharmila, the iconic Iron Lady of Manipur, who has landed in Kodaikanal in search of peace, got married to her lover Desmond Coutinho here on Thursday, will she resume her ‘fire-brand’ activism? This question will certainly lurk in the minds of all civil rights activists and those who are closely following her, including the governments.

She definitely will, going by she told The Covai Post. In a brief chat with The Covai Post correspondent at her home near the Observatory in the hill town, Irom said she cannot put a full stop to activism.

When asked whether her wish to lead a peaceful life now meant she would want to stay away from working for the welfare of the civil society, Irom said, “I want to stop (activism), but I can’t.”

This speaks for how activism runs in her blood that even if she wants to bid adieu, perhaps dejected by the crushing defeat she faced in 2017 Manipur Assembly elections against former chief minister O Ibobi Singh of Congress, she is unable to. Irom staged the world’s largest hunger strike for 16 years in her fight against the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

Fed up of elections, Irom had, in fact, declared then that she would quit politics and go on a month-long retreat to an ashram in South India, probably Kerala or Karnataka, to contemplate. She did go to Kerala, but found her perfect home in Kodaikanal in Tamil Nadu where she wants to reside permanently.

She, according to J Arul Antony Sasikumar, the first witness to their register marriage, landed in Kodai in June along with Desmond Coutinho, and the couple took shelter in Bodhizendo, a Zen meditation centre in Perumalmalai. They were under the care of Zen master Fr AMA Samy for a while till they took up a home on Observatory Road.

Since she confesses that she can’t stop her activism, what is she going to do next? She might work among the tribals of Kodaikanal. Asked whether she would engage herself to work for the uplift of the Kodai tribals, she says, “I am connected with them.”

Her husband Desmond being a British national, the validity of his passport, he says, ends in March next and would want to take Irom with her, while he would go there for renewal. “I would like to as she by marriage has automatically become a UK citizen. But I do not know whether she would face any issues here regarding her overseas travel,” he says.

The newly-married inter-religious and cross-national couple is keeping their fingers crossed now.

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