Imphal: Rejecting appeals from some to continue her protest, Manipur's 'Iron Lady' Irom Sharmila on Tuesday ended her fast that began in 2000 against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.
The iconic rights activist had been forcibly fed through a nasal tube since 2000 to keep her alive at a prison-turned-hospital in Imphal.
The 44-year-old civil rights activist had announced on July 26 that after breaking her fast, she would join politics and also get married. Following her announcement, the Alliance for Socialist Unity (ASU) had warned Sharmila to not marry a “non-local man”.
Here are a few facts about Desmond Coutinho who allegedly influenced Sharmila to end her fast:
- Desmond Coutinho, a writer and an activist, first read about Irom Sharmila's struggle in `Burning Bright`, a book by Deepti Priya Mehrotra.
- Desmond wrote a letter to Sharmila in 2009. Since then, the two have been exchanging letters regularly.
- The 52-year-old proposed to Sharmila in a letter without even meeting her.
- Desmond came to Manipur's capital Imphal for the first time in February 2011 and managed to meet Sharmila on March 09 at a court.
- Sharmila's room is full of gifts from Desmond. According to India Today, the gifts include a wooden statue of Krishna and Radha, a calendar, a wall-hanging, a tablecloth, a diary, Santa Claus cap and bells, and a laptop.
- Desmond visited Manipur again in 2014, and eventually landed up in jail for “disturbing the peace” in the hospital. He was later released on bail.
- In 2011, Sharmila was quoted as saying by Indian Today that Desmond is of Goan origin but a British citizen. Desmond, however, has posted on a website, "Goan origin she said, but I was born in Zanzibar, Tanzania, as were my parents. I am a second generation African travelling with an EU passport."
- In a blog post, Desmond wrote: “I am like Yoko Ono. Or Gandhiji’s wife. I will enable her to do her thing, which is give witness to the oppressed. I am marrying a mahatma and I have a rough idea that it’s not going to be an easy-going life.”
- Sharmila's supporters do not like her union with Desmond.