Mamata appreciates struggle, Sharmila asks her what else
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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday paid a surprise visit to Irom Sharmila, the symbol of Manipur's struggle against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. But after she had expressed her appreciation for the struggle, she was taken by surprise herself when Sharmila asked her what else was she had to offer besides appreciation.
Mamata is in Manipur to campaign for the elections. Her cavalcade from the airport swerved suddenly towards Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences, where Sharmila is being kept in a high security ward under judicial custody.
Mamata presented the fasting activist a Manipuri scarf. "I appreciate that you have been on hunger-strike for 11 years for the cause of your people," Mamata told Sharmila in her small room, packed with Trinamool Congress supporters.
"Is that all? Only appreciation? I will only receive your appreciation?" retorted Sharmila. "What will happen to my cause? Will AFSPA be repealed? Will you promise?"
Taken aback, Mamata kept quiet for some five minutes before saying, "OK. I promise. If we get a state government here, I will repeal AFSPA in Manipur."
She then told Sharmila she knows what it is like to go on a hunger-strike. "I too fasted for 26 days when Singur happened," she said. "I know what you are going through. I understand your suffering. I understand Manipur's suffering. Please take care of your health first and foremost." She left as swiftly as she had arrived.
Her party has taken a big plunge into Manipur politics, fielding candidates in 48 seats, second only to the Congress that is contesting all 60. It has not allied with with any party. The Naga People's Front is the only other non-Congress party contesting on its own.
"We are confident of winning at least six to eight seats," she said on the sidelines of a rally at Langjing grounds. The rally itself proved a surprising testimony to Mamata's confidence as hundreds gathered, in a state that rarely witnesses such political enthusiasm because of constant threats from militants.
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