A national daily, recently broke the news about Irom Sharmila’s love life. A few months ago, in February 2011, her love Desmond Coutinho had blogged about his ‘engagement’ with Irom, which neither made news nor was widely believed. But finally Irom herself has spoken about it and the media have spoken about her.
Desmond is said to have first written to Irom after reading the book Burning Bright on the Manipur resistance. This was almost a year before they first met in March 2011. A series of letters exchanged between the two let love flower in their hearts .
Irom, who is on a fast for the past eleven years to pressurize the government to repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA ) has said that her supporters in the battle against AFSPA are not support ing her in her love life. The reason, as Irom tells, is because Desmond is “of Goan origin but a British citizen.” She also said that her supporters not only did not appreciate their relationship but also were very possessive and mean.
It is not surprising that Irom fell in love. When one has distanced oneself from the people, physically, for the cause of the people ,the loneliness can be heart-breaking. As she herself said once earlier, she craves human interaction and wants to be with the people.
The objection of the supporters could not be just because Desmond is of a different culture and nationality. It is also, as pointed by journalist Lakshmi Chaudhry, because we rarely allow our leaders to behave in a human manner, especially when we have made saints out of them.
Human Rights activist Babloo Loitongbam raises objects to the media focusing on the personal life of Irom and not on the issue that she is fighting for. True, in a way. Social activist R.K.Anand says that Irom’s love affair is not the central issue but her battle is and joins his voice to Mr. Loitongbam’s. Mr. Anand later says that an attempt is being made to divert attention from the burning issue.
The matter seems to be not so much of conspiracy by the state, but the way in which the entire battle is being seen. It appears like the burden of the battle against AFSPA has been put on the shoulders of Irom alone and everyone is comfortably backing her, forgetting that she has a personal life too. Else there is no reason to feel that a shift in the focus on Irom’s love affair can divert the focus from the issue. It is our battle too for it concerns us also. Irom has sacrificed way too much for this battle and it would be extremely selfish on our part to expect her to sacrifice more. It’s high time we all sacrificed more than some virtual space and some coffee table time to support Irom. So, if Irom is given a choice between continuing to fight the battle against AFSPA and Desmond, she should choose the latter and not the former, I think. But Irom says she will marry Desmond only after her battle is won.
In one of her poems, Hyderabad-based activist Mehazabeen writes:
“Not just ozone, but
Love also is vanishing
From the surface of the earth.
What we all need, right now, is
Irom Sharmila’s eleven year old battle, at its heart, now appears to me as a battle for love itself. It is to repeal AFSPA, yes. But it is, at its heart, asking the nation state to love its people, asking India to love the North-East, asking India to mother its people as a motherland. It is a demand for love. But sadly those who stand with her for the demand of love by the nation state do not stand with her for the love that she is seeking/ sharing from/with Desmond.
Irom remembers how Desmond was not allowed to meet her when he came first to meet her. Later, Desmond had to go on a fast for two days in order to have his way. Similarly for the love of the nation state and of the mother land Irom has been fasting. I pray that her fasting, like that of Desmond, succeeds in attaining its goal. She has said that she will marry Desmond only after achieving success in her battle. Let’s pray that soon Irom will be with her love and will be loved by the nation state… For love is a necessity of life -- one can survive without food but not without love.
“Nafrat kay saaye main palti hai mohabbat ‘faraaz’
Hathon main haath ho toh lakeerain mil hee jaati hai.”
(The title of this essay has been borrowed by the author from the article published in the website: firstpost)
-- BA Samvartha ‘Sahil’ is a research scholar in the Theratre and Performance Studies department of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU. He blogs at: www.crazymindseye.wordpress.com