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JPF condemns Telegraph's report on Irom Sharmila's personal life
Source: Hueiyen News Service

Imphal, September 05 2011: Just Peace Foundation (JPF), a trust formed to propagate the cause of Sharmila, has condemned a report in The Telegraph of September 5 wherein the paper had highlighted the story of Sharmila's personal life as a main headline rather than her struggle.

According to Jyotilal Longjam,Co-ordinator, JPF is deeply grateful to Naga, Assamese and other north eastern brothers and sisters for expressing solidarity towards Irom Sharmila's iconic struggle to garner peace and democracy in the conflict regions of North East.

Reacting sharply to a news article appearing on a national daily today that said "Sharmila speaks on romance", Just Peace Foundation (JPF) quickly went on a damage control mode by saying the coverage is an attempt at driving a wedge between Sharmila and her supporters.

"The man I love is waiting for me but my supporters refused that idea," Sharmila was quoted as saying by Nishit Dholabhai on The Telegraph September 5."He is of Goan origin but a British citizen.

That is why they are against the relationship," the news report added.

In an attempt to steer away from a potentially embarrassing situation, Just Peace Foundation said in a statement issued through its Co-ordinator, Jyotilal Longjam, said that "JPF held out its apprehension and shock generated by The Telegraph report and said that "the coverage seems to come out as (an attempt at) driving wedge between her and her supporters…which is very unfortunate at this juncture" .

"JPF is deeply concerned that the mainstream media often downplay and even malign the movement.

The national media is conspicuous by its silence on matters of supporting and empowering the democratic movement of Irom Sharmila.

Instead (they) seem to be more interested in diluting the struggle even as a wave of democratization movement is sweeping India," the statement said.

"It would be more fruitful if her cause comes as a priority" rather than her personal life, it added.

According to The Telegraph story "Desmond Coutinho, a 48-year-ole writer and activist, met her in March this year after a yearlong exchange of handwritten letters that Sharmila carefully keeps in a cardboard box by her bedside" .

"Desmond had arrived in Imphal in February but Sharmila's supporters were probably put off by his disheveled appearance and talk about human rights-including his and Sharmila's," The Telegraph daily said and added that her supporters don't appreciate their relationship and are very possessive about her.

"(At first) they insulted him," Sharmila was quoted as saying and added that "Sharmila requested the judge to provide him with security." "Desmond could have been beaten to death," the newspaper added.

It has been further revealed that Sharmila intends to carry forward the relationship and finally marry Desmond, who is now in Thailand, after her demand to repeal AFSPA is fulfilled by the government.

Meanwhile, JPF cautioned media organizations to be aware of the situation and be little more sensitive in covering these issues.

"They should also be aware that extraordinary restrictions have been place on anybody wanting to meet her, including her family members, while free access is given to selected media from national newspapers," observed the statement.

It noted that despite the restriction placed by the state government which is forcing her to solitary confinement, select media groups are given permission to meet her but they seem to "take under advantage of her mental state created by her isolation" .

"It is also known that there is a long line of visitors who have been denied, or else inordinately delayed, in getting an appointment with her despite formal official application in the specified procedure," added the statement.

"JPF appeals and strongly supports the arduous struggle of Irom Sharmila against the military law (AFSPA) and we have nothing to say on her personal life.

We would like to appeal to the people of Manipur and elsewhere to not confuse her personal life with her public struggle which has been going on for over a decade," JPF said even as a two-month long nationwide signature campaign begins early next month.


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