Attappady, Palakkad: Irom Chanu Sharmila, undoubtedly one of the greatest rights activists India has ever produced, said her recent poll debacle has not failed her belief in the power of the ballot.
But her belief in the system of electoral politics comes with a rider -- people need to change.
"I still believe in electoral politics but only when people's mindset changes. They are yet to change," Sharmila told Onmanorama in an exclusive interview here on Thursday.
Elaborating on the rout in the Manipur Assembly polls, Sharmila said though she and her colleagues had been fighting for long for the betterment of society, the people let them down.
She said she had no hopes about the BJP-led government which came to power in Manipur.
"The ex-DGP of Manipur is holding power after being elected by the people. He was involved in the killings of 1,528 people in fake encounters in Manipur. It's horrendous. Horrible will be the outcome of this new government," she said in an apparent reference to the ascension of former top cop Joykumar as the deputy chief minister of the state.
Asked if her electoral loss indicated that the people of Manipur had no issues with the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA), for the repeal of which she had gone on a 16-year hunger strike, though in vain, Sharmila said now people might not deem it as an issue as they used to in the past.
"After my prolonged struggle, harassment and killings by the army using this draconian law have decreased. So, there are other social problems on people's minds now," Sharmila said in a feeble voice.
On the BJP dispensation at the Center, she said the party and the opposition Congress were almost the same on many counts.
"The current competing parties, the Congress and the BJP, are corrupt. In one sense, they are one and the same in their approach to the people, their ethics, governance, and abuse of power," she said.
Sharmila came to Kerala for a month-long vacation after her loss in the polls. She secured just 90 votes which came as a shocker to all those who viewed her as a symbol of the Manipuri people's struggle against atrocities committed by the armed forces. She entered politics with her own party after ending her hunger strike seeking repeal of the draconian law. The AFSPA grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in 'disturbed areas.'
An activist-poet, Sharmila heaped praises on Kerala, calling it a paradise. She has been receiving a number of visitors, including activists, mediapersons and political leaders ever since she came to Santhi Medical Information Center at Attappady where she would be put up.
Watch this space for a detailed video interview.