Irom Sharmila, the ‘Iron Lady’ of Manipur got married with her long-time Tamil-British friend Desmond Coutinho in Kodaikanal, sources close to her said today.
Known for her 16-year-long hunger strike in demand of the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur, Sharmila and Coutinho visited the sub-registrar’s office in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, on Wednesday to get register her marriage. Irom has now shifted and settled in Perumalmalai in Kodaikanal.
Despite the formalities being completed under the Hindu Marriage Act yesterday, the couple was told by the sub-registrar that they will be granted permission only after they have registered it under the Special Marriage Act, as their marriage is inter-religious. This requires a 30-day notice period.
While she was campaigning ahead of the Manipur state elections earlier this year, Sharmila had said she intended to get married by August.
Ms. Irom and Mr. Coutinho (who is a British citizen) spent two hours at the office completing the formalities to register their marriage.
She had vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was repealed. She had been arrested and force-fed through a tube to prevent her ending her life, a crime under Indian law. Over the 16 years, she was repeatedly released and then re-arrested.
She formed a political party, the People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance, and herself contested the Manipur elections. After she lost, getting just 90 votes, she had moved to Kodaikanal to live with her partner.
Ms. Irom said that after marriage, she wished to lead a peaceful life as an ordinary woman in Kodaikanal. She did not, though, rule out her participation in struggles for women’s rights in the future.