Imphal: The imagery is old, Irom Sharmila has walked out many times out of the Jawahar Lal Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal. But this walk is different, without the tag that here is a woman trying to commit suicide.
Once out, an emotional Sharmila led by Meira Paibis, only asked for one thing- public support to her cause.
"Don't sing my glory, give me your support when I need it," said the Iron Lady of Manipur, trying to hold back her tears.
On Tuesday, in a first, a Manipur sessions court de-criminalised her 14-year old agitation saying an attempt to suicide charge cannot be made against her. It is a re-inforcement of what the activist has said, that hers was a valid political protest against the Armed Forces Special Powers (AFSPA) Act, a draconian law whose repeal has been proposed by the Jeevan Reddy Commission itself. However, the report has never been made public.
The big question, does this change anything for Sharmila, will she now consider giving up her torturous fast? "I will not change my mind," she asserts.
Sharmila will spend the night in a make shift protest site surrounded by Imas or mothers. The court order puts the onus of her health on the state. With the 42-year-old completely adamant in sticking to her stand, the next 24 hours will be crucial of how the state handles the Iron Lady.