Irom Sharmila`s supporters see state conspiracy in her love story

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Jaideep Mazumdar
SEPTEMBER 12 (courtesy TOI): Manipur`s `Iron Lady`, Irom Chanu SharmilaManipur`s `Iron Lady`, Irom Chanu Sharmila, is the subject of a raging debate in the state. Sharmila, on a hunger strike since November 2, 2000, demanding withdrawal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or the AFSPA, recently confessed to a group of visiting journalists that she was in love with a British citizen of Goa origin and complained that her supporters, unhappy with this development, had behaved harshly with the man.

A Kolkata-based English newspaper that published the interview has been banned in Manipur by the influential Apunba Lup, a coalition of 13 prominent civil society organizations. Her league of dismayed supporters see the interview as a sinister attempt by the state to draw attention away from her movement and the Act which empowers security forces to detain people without trial and immunity from prosecution after killing civilians.

Sharmila, 39, launched her fast after a particularly horrific incident of the paramilitary Assam Rifles opening fire on unarmed civilian demonstrators near state capital Imphal`s Tulihal airport on November 1, 2000, killing ten and seriously injuring many. Since then, she has mostly been confined to a state hospital where she is under arrest and is being force-fed. Her protest, the longest such fast anywhere in the world, has gained global attention and drawn the spotlight on the `unconstitutional` AFSPA. Sharmila, say her supporters and a plethora of human rights and civil society organizations in the state, has been the beacon of the movement to demand withdrawal of the AFSPA that had led to thousands of disappearances, `encounter` deaths and cold blooded killings by security forces in Manipur over the past few decades.

Sharmila, in the interview with the news daily, spoke of her love for the 48-year-old Desmond Coutinho, a writer and human rights activist, with whom she had been exchanging letters for the past one year. She said they met for the first time on March 9 this year when she was produced in a local court. It was sometime during the exchange of letters that he proposed to her and she accepted the proposal. He has gifted her a Apple MacBook, which is her prized possession now. She said her supporters were against the marriage, which she has clarified will take place only after she succeeds in her mission of getting the AFSPA repealed. Desmond, she said, had arrived in Imphal in February and had to wait for many days before her being allowed to meet her.

The interview created uproar in Manipur , where she is justifiably revered by people. “At one level, Sharmila is free to fall in love with anyone she wants and marry him and no one has the right to oppose this. But the way just her romance was publicized gives the impression that a sinister attempt has been made to destroy the aura around her,” prominent human rights activist Babloo Loitongbam told TOI. He pointed out that it is the state which controls access to her. “I find it very strange that while even letters written by her family members don`t reach her, those written by a man who must have been a stranger to her initially are delivered to her. Her own kith and kin can`t meet her, and here we see a group of journalists from outside the state gaining so easy access to her,” added Loitongbam, who is also closely involved in the fight for repeal of the `black` Act. “Did the media focus on the issue of corruption during Hazare`s fast or did they talk about his personal life? In the days of the freedom struggle, was Gandhiji`s personal life the primary issue? Then why should Sharmila`s personal life find so much prominence in the mainstream media that largely ignores the sufferings of the people of Manipur?” asked an indignant Loitongbam.

Prominent social activist and MLA, R K Anand, who has known Sharmila even before she went on fast, told TOI that the circumstances surrounding the developments raised suspicion. “The interviewers focused solely on her so-called love affair. Her personal life is not the main issue. The primary issue is her struggle and the untold atrocities, rapes, molestations and killings committed by the security forces under the cover of the AFSPA. The interview in the newspaper gives the impression that an attempt is being made to divert attention away from the burning issue,” said Anand, who says Sharmila is morally upright, disciplined and honest”.

Few in Manipur are willing to openly comment on Sharmila`s `affair` or her right to fall in love. Privately, however, many say that while what she does in her personal life is her own business and nobody has the right to interfere, her struggle represents the struggle of the people of longsuffering Manipur and, hence, the disappointment among her supporters over the developments.

Everyone TOI spoke to, including prominent lawyers, Opposition politicians who support her struggle, civil society leaders, educationists, artistes and litterateurs, were unanimous in their view that the entire development-a stranger being allowed to write freely to Sharmila, the journalists granted easy access to her and focusing only on her `affair` and the subsequent published interview that highlighted the romance and opposition to it-was a sinister attempt by the state to shift focus away from the struggle that Sharmila is leading.

11 COMMENTS

  1. “I am happy to expose Babloo Loitongbam. He is a conscienceless abuser of women, procurer of gang*****, and another thief of Manipur……..when the middle-aged all die,leaving only the elderly and the children, no one will be left to protect them, save the rich gangsters. that is when Babloo and his cronies will leave  and boast in far off lands of their love of Kanglei….I know Babloo will not succeed in murdering her.He is a greedy man with lots of guns.” These are Desmond coutinho’s own words which he wrote in THE SOUTH REPORTS under the heading of “The truth about Irom Sharmila Chanu”.So, Babloo Loitongbam is the ruthless villain in this highly publicised love story…oh, how I wish I could help this lovesick romeo meet his beloved !!! Jokes apart, I and my friends are not against Sharmila’s right to love and marry the person of her dreams, so, goodluck to you two lovebirds!……but criticising a person with Babloo Loitongbam’s repute in all the popular websites doesn’t seem to sit well with some of us Manipuris. Is he really going to kill Iche Sharmila???? oh no!….how can we save her????….and why, so far, hasn’t Babloo come out in the open and counter these allegations against him ? does he even know what Desmond coutinho  has been  doing to him behind his back? can somebody go and tell Babloo ???…….its really disheartening to see people have forgotten the real issues…..that of AFSPA…that of Iche Sharmila’s undaunting 11yrs long struggle…..of innocent civilians butchered by Indian army….of helpless women being raped by Indian soldiers…… only god knows what will become of this land….

  2. Sharmila requires me to remain non-confrontational but surely Tamo Babloo recalls our many emails dating back these past 18 months. One in which he commends all the hard work I had been doing highlighting the Anti-AF(SP)A cause. The only reason a minor Green MEP’s letters were published in Manipur was because at Tamo Babloo’s request I sent copies on to him. The reason Tamo Babloo met with Sir Graham Watson was if I may jog his memory at my intervention. Sir Graham released a podcast of his speech in the EU parliament after that briefing from Tamo Babloo. Tamo Babloo must also recall our three face to face meetings where he supped and dined with me and others during my stay in Imphal earlier this year. As his Uncle is head of Imphal Police Commandoes and a close colleague of the DG Imphal Prisons I certainly do not wish to arouse his enmity. But outwith any negative suggestion Tamo Babloo knows full well that I am not a stranger who suddenly popped up, that this is India not Pakistan. I tend to send my letters by speedpost it is one step down from Registered delivery in that it requires any signature but I was informed that it would be quicker than registered and in manipur they probably don’t stress the technically different level of privacy. Most Manipuris cannot be bothered to use stamps. And I know that some letters at least from her brother have made it through. Also that her brother never writes anything without Tamo Babloo’s approval.

    I would also remind Tamo Babloo that the Indian Government has no say over who visits people in Manipur. This decision is made by among others his Uncle’s close associate the DG Imphal Prisons. Tamo Babloo introduced several of his colleagues from SIB to me personally towards the end of my visit and there was an intense young man dropped off personally from his Uncle’s jeep, the SP assigned to well in England the phrase is whom I was assisting with his inquiries pointed it out at the handover. He was little a very shy young man. 

    But if these statements embarrass or upset let us remain focussed you and I Tamo Babloo we can hardly control the fourth estate now can we. 

    Prison visits are not the goal. AF(SP)A repeal is the goal and to keep Sharmila alive. As Tamo Babloo no longer wishes to work with me I will not press. There is hardly need for us all to belong to one group if we are working towards the same goal. As he has made it clear he does not want the 16 million rupees I had offered to build a peace ashram at the Malom Shelter site and it is not possible for Tamo Babloo’s memory to be that poor. We were in discussion how best to proceed to raise awareness of AF(SP)A repeal. But if you are sure you can’t remember what does it matter. Oh and has Tamo Babloo also forgotten his plans to travel to ireland with me. Or does he routinely make plans to travel to foreign lands with strangers who pop up. I hope I have not offended Tamo Babloo now many in Manipur fear me as a spy from India if they were to find out how closely he had worked with me these past eighteen months. Oh but I know his popularity in manipur will not so easily fail. I fully accept that he has neither the ability or the desire to assist Sharmila or me for now. I withdraw publicly any request or project that calls for  his support. Now if he would just do his thing and let me do mine.I hope that Tamo Babloo and others can work to ensure first that Mr Anna Hazare keeps his promise to visit Sharmila and thus raise the case for AF(SP)A repeal. As a former war hero Mr Hazare is well placed. Second that Tamo Babloo encourage Sharmila to stand for national elections which I believe are next year. I am sure he will talk of on the ground reality it is just a suggestion to give added weight to the campaign if the people wish it. Beyond that I have campaigns and projects to undertake that neither require the permission or participation of manipuris. And if Tamo Babloo likes not my plans they are only suggestions.The problem Tamo Babloo has is if I may suggest, that he cannot fool all of the people all of the time. I have always maintained that the truth is a weed. If Tamo Babloo accepts that he cannot control the fourth estate all of the time then perhaps he can move on to what he can do. He secured the lifting of AF(SP)A from Imphal City in 2004 for example. Perhaps he can secure it’s lifting in other areas too as peace accords are drawn up. But I am sure I have misunderstood the on the ground reality. I want AF(SP)A repealed and Sharmila freed. I have no opinion on Tamo Babloo or any of the other bureaucrats around Sharmila and I wish them success in all their projects and ventures. All sentient beings experience suffering. All sentient beings seek happiness. May you be happy and discover the causes of happiness.

    • I thought you were a mad person seeking fame when you first claimed that you are with Sharmila in many of your comments. A few suggestions you need not comply:
      (i) Is it possible for you to put up your profile in public (I, and many others are interested and curious to know who you are? Who knows, we may be able to support Sharmila and you)
      (ii) We would be interested in knowing other details like what you do to earn  (I am not interested in your earning per se, but you talked about donating Rs 16 millions to set up a ashram)

      • I have never denied being a mad person. Why would a sane person come to Manipur be threatened as your Eche Sharmila put it with being beaten to death when I could do whatever I pleased in far more beautiful lands surrounding where the people are gentler and kindlier. I like the title rude racist looney. If you wish to support Eche Sharmila then do it in a way that may count for something. Encourage her to stand for elections next year and cast the ballot for a hunger striker who will refuse salary and perks of a member of parliament if elected. I am told two thing on personal matters that our personal lives Sharmila’s and mine are nobody else’s concern and any post about personal things detracts and damages the anti-afspa cause. And then there are calls to know about my personal life. The double bind. I have refused interviews with the Sunday Times People Magazine and Los Angeles Times though I gave the two Times,s my thoughts on AF(SP)A and a projected timeline for the satyagraha for the next months and years. How did I get 16 million rupees. It’s nothing in the west. It would be nothing for Manipuris in years to come if you ended the corruption embraced the silas. My mother worked all her life as a primary school teacher. My father died when I was nine so she began saving. The house which together with my father was bought for around 3 thousand pounds under mortgage (which took nearly twenty years for her to pay off) was sold for around 20 thousand pounds for another house also taken on mortage. After my father died she sold and bought another house which was sold for around 400,000 pounds. My share all my liquid assets is what I was offering. What Our Lord called the widow’s mite. All that I possess. How did she look after us on her own. As well her salary of a primary school teacher she used to make samosas. She never charged for the hours of her work she saw that as her free time. Just charged to make money over the price of the ingredients. So she bought ingredients for around 12 pence and sold for 25 pence. She would make thousands every week. She always saved for her worthless sons. What else would you like to know. Or will you now accept our private lives are none of your business. Your Eche has given up 11 years of her life for you. What does it matter whether I am a looney a racist or rude. What does it matter how hard my mother worked. Indians and Manipuris are not so different. You have a mother like mine. Give her a hug today and tell her how much you love her how much you appreciate her. Or is this too personal now. I have apologized at her request to Tamo Babloo. The South Reports had refused to publish my article written over a month ago and I had forgotten about it. As soon as I realized that they had published it now you people have taken to book burning I deleted it. I have tried to publish the apology in her words as she requested. Others sites hold it. If I try publishing here often they refuse to publish any of the text.

        • I respect your personal as well as our beloved Eche Sharmila’s choice. It’s true that the Manipuri and Indian governments have ruined her prime life and it’s also fact that we would never be able to compensate for her sacrifice ever again. If she finds love in you, I think, it’s best thing to happen in her life. At least, she has some one whom she can share her personal feelings without any political and social pressure.

          Eche Sharmila has been living her life for the people but not for herself. We have a choice in our life, she should also have a choice of her own. Her sacrifice for the plight of people living in AFSPA implemented states is at par with if not bigger than the sacrifice made by any other many International leaders. She has nothing to prove further. If she stop her fast and initiate mass awareness campaign regarding AFSPA, her respect will not be diminished.
          No one should force her to get into politics unless she wishes to do so (I hope, you are not forcing her 🙂 ) OR no one should stop her from entering politics if she desires.
             
          I pray, we the people of Manipur are not intrusive to your and her  personal lives and we only focus on the AFSPA. May God bless you and eche Sharmila. I would love to see her living a normal life after her successful campaign. I love to see her calling all the shots in her own life without anybody applying political/social pressure.

          • You clearly really have no idea about Sharmila. No one can force her to do anything. Some try but no one succeeds. So I cannot force her to stand for election though I appreciate many would dissuade her. The only reason I am trying to suggest this to her well I have a few days to write something before another six weeks of peace with more monks, is to measure her actual support. People like you claim to support her but can produce no concrete example of even a single act you have done for her. Moral support you call it. Hence many have written that she has no support in Manipur. A ballot is a positive measure. She doesn’t have to win. She doesn’t even have to take her place. But the votes will be counted. And for all its critics India has the most robust democracy of any country in this region. No one can persuade her to abandon her bounden duty so I would give up on that one. If you knew her at all you wouldn’t bother suggesting a reasonable alternative to her satyagraha. And no she doesn’t want to do what all you other Manipuris have done for  60 years. Sataygraha is her way. If you cannot support her then leave us be. If you really want her calling all the shots then take a look at Daw Aung San Suu Kyi next door. She was a devoted wife to Michael Arris for many years but he always understood that when the time came she had other duties and he was to give her total support which he did. Only a farang will do that. I hope also that Sanjib Meitei is not your real name. Take Bid he knows how it’s done. Create an account to talk free of any repercussions. If you are unwilling to vote for her that’s fine we call it democracy back home many manipuris claim all other manipuris are ignorant of how its done but you seem to have it sussed vote for her or dont vote for her, if you are unwilling or unable to spend a day in public fasting with her when Anna Hazare comes I would love to tell you what to do with your moral support but she thinks my style unhelfpul. Do you believe the nonsense fiction that the authorities do not allow her mail. I have sent hundreds of letters and parcels by signed for delivery. I know of three manipuris who sent her letters becuase they also published them on line. I know of none who sent by signed for delivery. Without unfair criticism she has never received a letter from you Sanjib not because of a state conspiracy to isolate her but because you have never written to her. I did violence to those I felt responsible for leaking covert plans to murder her. Or maybe I am a looney and overshot, my bad. Violence is not her way. As soon as she was allowed to command me to cease I obeyed. I do as she tells me if she is allowed to communicate with me. If there is nothing you can or will do be advised that instead of looking like intelligent educated talented men and women you look like ignorant fascists who burn the written word when it contains an inconvenient truth. But if that’s what they are I guess you are stymied. But they don’t represent all Manipuris yes. As for that sex spy story friends of the inventor should give him feedback no matter how in awe they are of him. I like the story. I imagine myself in a bugatti (now MI6 is defending europe why stick with an aston martin) But it makes him look either stupid or incapable of adapting. Either I am allowed to send her speedpost parcels and letters because that’s how it works if you choose to pay the extra 25 rupees for signed for delivery, and the reason she has received few letters if any from Manipuris is because you can’t be bothered to post her anything at all. or the reason is my speedpost letters are delivered and my application to visit her has clocked up 18 months consideration because I am a highly twained sex spy and speedpost delivery is one of my special apparently only skill and your letters which you haven’t written don’t get to her because you are not foreign sex spies. but I have tried to warn you people about not multiplying the ents but you won’t say when you don’t understand. Sanjib do as you please. You will do nothing for us, neither now nor after AF(SP)A repeal. That works for me. May you be happy.

          • http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/manipur-irom-sharmila-chanu-desmond-coutinho/1/151567.html Your buddy biddy asked why Tamo Babloo has not responded. When I read this report apparently he no longer believes there is any conspiracy involving state national or international sex spy rings, his theory is that my fluent English overwhelmed Sharmila’s impressionable mind, so he now no longer believes she is more impressive than Gandhi-ji the British trained Barrister and father of the nation. He also believes me to be mentally unbalanced and Singhghajit like Peter has denied knowing me. Both now declare that they have no opposition to our marriage after AF(SP)A repeal. I tried responding  with a clarification but they don’t always publish. When you are older Sanjib you will appreciate real courage comes from eating crow and touching feet. Anna’s arrival would help.The key for me is to continually remember all sentient beings suffer and seek happiness. I will happily attest to my mental imbalance. None with the  slightest EQ discount Sharmila’s spirituality or wisdom. Brother-in-laws! I will be at peace in a monastery placement soon I shall not respond to the tittle. If he is still annoyed with me, tell him he can knock himself out. No doubt we can have a laught about qll this at the wedding

          • @ Desmond

              I have a genuine request…please, try keeping your erratic and personal thoughts  to you alone, it was really inappropriate of you to pour them out in all the public forums,  already maximum damage has been done by you on sharmila’s and manipur’s reputation as a result of your thoughtless comments , people are laughing at us …you have even called sharmila a  woman with low IQ in one of your comments, stop doing that  in the future if you truly love her, instead you can channelise your endless energy by writing on AFSPA and help your love achieve her goals….Sharmila is no ordinary person because of the path she chose, she is the true daughter of manipur, never in my have i seen a person like her who loves manipur and her people to this extent, so its only natural manipuris want to protect her from all possible harms….respect is very important in our society and material wants , not as much ….give us respect and we will be happy to give you one in return, but your filthy comments on manipuris, Babloo and Sharmila’s brother Singhajit will not help you at all, poor man, Singhajit doesn’t  even know his sister’s lover labelled him corrupt repeatedly in all his comments.Don’t mind but I feel you are a bit of Psycho, but even psycho deserves the right to love, maybe underneath that erratic surface, there is a good man, who knows !….I can see from your comments here that there is a slight change in your tone, that you have mellowed down, maybe love has a magical way of making people better….but do remember not to rub us up the wrong way…..and yes, looking forward to the wedding !

          • u r right Des, I don’t know Eche Sharmila personaly, and have never written a letter to her except on a few articles based on my limited understanding. Well, my real name is Sanjib Meitei (of course Ningombam is my surname). You seem different from us Manipuris and so as your thought process. Your level of EQ is different from us. I am not saying you are right or wrong. But you way of taking up agaisnt Babloo and Sighajit may not go down well with many people. If they are doing something wrong, you could have conveyed in different waysa. And just one point, they are the people who have been standing for Sharmila through thick and thins. I don’t mean to show disrespect you but you came into the scene in 2009 (after 9 trubulent years of fasting). You may be an important person to eche Sharmila but not to us and Manipuris. You are important to us because somehow our beloved Eche feels that you are the one. You came into existent in the knowledge of Manipuri people because of Sharmila only. You keep on saying that you will be Thailand to meditate with monks. None of my business, but anyway, I hope you find peace with yourself (which doesn’t seem) before you marry her. From your comments, it sound as if you are filled with hatred for Manipuris, specially the suporters of Sharmila. I hope it’s my wrong perception.

          • Like you say you don’t know Sharmila. And you don’t know me. Once I found out about her plight I acted. I know better than you what people around her have been doing and are doing. But like you say there are more skilfull means to overcome evil. My opinion of Manipuris is irrelevant. I adore Sharmila, people who hurt her piss me off they always will. Meditation hmm well I am giving it more time. But if any try to hurt her. Go with your perception. Pity you have given your real name. Be welcome at our peace ashram come and see whether you are hated or not. First things first. So write to her Irom Sharmila Chanu, Security Ward, Porompat, Imphal East, Manipur 795001 Today I have sent an open letter to Sinn Fein in Ireland. Today have you done nothing again. Sloth is irrating but hatred gets us no where. Six weeks now in Nepal educating Nepali monks on the plight of Sharmila, they will not have heard of Manipur. The Americans used to irritate Europeans with their one line. We don’t start wars we finish them. But to clarify I don’t hate Manipuris. I love Sharmila and I have done more in the two years I have known her than you. And as for others what do you know. The truth can wait. First let us get AF(SP)A repealed. If the truth is of no help then. It can be buried with us. Without reconciliation the truth is a poison. I don’t mind replying to you. You gave your name so at least you can speak for yourself. You are meitei. I don’t hate you. If that’s not enough it’s all I have for now.

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