To contest elections in Manipur, Irom Sharmila has to 'prove' her citizenship first

Irom Sharmila is one of the world's most recognised activists, but at home she's virtually a nobody.

This is because the Iron Lady from Manipur has no legal documents that identify her as a citizen of this country, reported Hindustan Times. Sharmila lacks a permanent account number (PAN) card, bank account and a voter identity card — documents that are necessary for her to stand in elections.

Sharmila, who had been protesting against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or Afspa, since 2000, after 10 people were allegedly killed by the Assam Rifles, near Imphal, was quoted by the BBC as saying that she wanted to be "like a bird and fly wherever". As free as she is now, Sharmila still requires documents that will help travel or 'fly' freely within the country. Sharmila has also expressed her desire to apply for an "identity card", the Hindustan Times report added.

File image of Irom Sharmila. Reuters

File image of Irom Sharmila. Reuters

After she broke her fast on 9 August, Sharmila became an outcast — an angry Manipur shut out Afspa's dedicated dissenter; even the Iskcon Temple did not offer her a place to stay, and Sharmila had to return to the hospital where she had been living for the last 16 years.

The activist, who has been under steady medical supervision, wants to join politics and become the chief minister of Manipur — with the topmost priority being, in her words, "the removal of this draconian law" (Afspa). The 44-year-old activist, who also spoke of romance and wanting to marry the man she loves, has signalled a desire to live life to the fullest. It's no surprise then that Manipuris (and some of her supporters included), have found her hopes and wishes unreasonable. "They want me to remain a martyr forever. But I can’t always be a martyr," Sharmila retaliated.

The Telegraph reported that some of the opposition may be due to the fact that Sharmila is in a relationship with a British citizen of Goan origin, Desmond Coutinho (48), a writer-activist who met her in March after they had exchanged handwritten letters for a year.

With the Assembly elections due in 2017 in Manipur, it's pertinent that Sharmila, who plans to attend an Afspa campaign in Delhi and travel to Ukhrul for a public campaign, according to Hindustan Times, she starts working to obtain the documents she needs to prove her citizenship and to enter politics. The report also quoted Sharmila’s brother Irom Singhajit as saying that she is "an Indian at heart" and that she never showed "secessionist tendencies during her fast".

Even as her every day challenge will be digesting food (something that she gave up for 16 years), Sharmila will be looking to rewrite her story. And for that she'd need money, which requires a bank account. Else, her campaign might be crowd-funded, a friend told the Hindustan Times, which also added that Sharmila will start getting her documents from Wednesday, apart from obtaining a mobile phone.

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Updated Date: Aug 24, 2016 15:33:14 IST

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