Political and human rights activist Irom Sharmila on Tuesday launched the People's Resurgence Justice Alliance, a political party with which she aims to contest elections in the north-eastern state of Manipur. This is in line with the strategy of the "Iron Lady" to test electoral waters, something she had devised even before she broke her fast earlier this year.
Sharmila, who broke her fast on August 9, has since met the likes of Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) chief Arvind Kejriwal to discuss political strategy with which to counter bigwigs like the BJP and the Congress.
Sharmila had gone to fast in November 2000 demanding that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA, be repealed in the state because it had reportedly given the Indian Army too much of a free hand. The immediate trigger for her protest was the alleged killing of 10 civilians — including a bravery award winner — at a bus stop by soldiers from the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary force.
Sharmila has since undertaken a protracted struggle against the government as well as the Army, but decided to end her fast after the Supreme court on July 9 rejected the government's arguments and set a judicial precedent issuing a verdict that ends immunity for armed forces in disturbed areas.
However, after she ended her fast and opted for the political route, her erstwhile supporters seemed to reject her, prompting her to say: "At that moment, I felt the best thing for them would have been beating me to death. What is the difference between being beaten to death or dying from fasting? Not much... They want me to remain a martyr forever. But I can't always be a martyr."
With the launch of the People's Resurgence Justice Alliance, Sharmila now looks set to contest the upcoming Assembly election in Manipur next year, thus scotching rumours that she would test the electoral waters as an independent candidate. It remains to be seen whether she chooses to go for the top spot in the state or decides to play kingmaker.