Irom Sharmila’s mother wishes her a happy, successful married life

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Imphal, July 15: Like all mother-daughter relationship, iconic Manipuri civil rights activist Irom Sharmila too shares a special bond with her mother, Irom Shakhi.

As the 45-year-old "Iron Lady" from the hill state of Northeast India is all set to tie the knot with her longtime beau, Desmond Coutinho, in Tamil Nadu's hill town of Kodaikanal, in mid-August, mother has a special message for her daughter.

Irom Sharmila

While Irom is away from "home" in Imphal since March this year, the mother wished her daughter a "successful and happy married life".

Her elder brother Irom Singhajit Singh told The Telegraph on Friday, "My sister informed my mother about her wedding plans over the phone through a contact a few days ago. My mother talked to her for some time and wished her a successful and happy married life."

In all probability, the 87-year-old mother of Irom is unlikely to be present at the wedding venue in Kodaikanal, but the blessing of her mother is an assurance that the family approves of her latest decision.

Not many in Manipur wanted Irom to end her 16-year-old fast against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) last year and lead the life of a "normal woman".

For them, Irom was a "goddess" as she sacrificed her youth for a cause that is so close to their hearts. The whole thing of "marriage" does not fit in their scheme of things.

The first time when a popular English daily from the Northeast region reported about Irom's love life several years ago, when she was still on her fast, massive protest broke out across the state, as the people who are against her decision of sharing her "heart" with a man, alleged that it was a conspiracy to derail Manipur's struggle against the AFSPA.

Over the years, the topic of Irom's love life was discussed in whispers in Manipur, as many of her fellow activists did not approve the "transgression" she dared to commit.

Observers say that Irom's "humiliating" defeat in the Manipur Assembly elections (her maiden attempt to join the political force of the country) earlier this year was a vote against her decision to end her fast (the longest in the world) and her relationship with Desmond.

She managed to get just 90 votes. Immediately after ending her fast last year, Irom formed her own political party-- the Peoples' Resurgence and Justice Alliance (PRJA).

After her defeat in the elections, a heartbroken Irom announced her decision to quit politics. However, she added that she would continue her struggle against the AFSPA.

In fact, so sad was Irom after her electoral loss, she decided to leave her hometown Imphal and has been on a tour of south India since March.

Now, when the news of her impending wedding has been widely reported in the media, Manipuris are mostly maintaining a studied silence. "This is her decision. What can we say? We hope and wish she will lead a happy married life," her brother Singhajit said.

If people of her state are expressing almost no emotion about Irom's wedding, a Tamil Nadu social activist has filed an objection to the proposed marriage of the human rights campaigner with Desmond at the office of the sub-registrar in Kodaikanal.

The activist, V Mahendran, from Pethuparai near Kodaikanal filed a petition in the office against Irom's proposed marriage with Desmond. He contended that if the couple was granted permission, they would settle in Kodaikanal permanently and this was not good for the interests of local residents and safety of the place.

On Wednesday, Irom and Desmond, who is a British citizen, visited the sub-registrar's office in Kodaikanal to submit papers for their marriage. The marriage will be registered under the Special Marriage Act as both belong to different religions.

Desmond told Mumbai Mirror, "The wedding will happen on August 11 or 12 in a small service at the Church in Tirunavmmalai city in Tamil Nadu."

When asked about her post-marriage plans, Irom told The Hindu that she wished to lead a peaceful life as an ordinary woman in Kodaikanal.

Irom added that her crusade against the AFSPA will continue. "I will continue my struggle, not as a politician but as a civil activist. After my marriage, I'll lobby international bodies to urge India to scrap the draconian law AFSPA."

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