Manipur’s iconic civil rights activist Irom Sharmila married her long-time partner British citizen Desmond Coutinho, a British national, in Tamil Nadu’s Kodaikanal under the Special Marriage Act on Thursday. The wedding was held in the presence of Sub-Registrar Radhakrishnan with Coutinho putting the ring on Sharmila’s finger.
It was a simple function and the families of the bride and groom were absent. However, some close friends of the couple were present at the occasion. Earlier, the couple married under the Hindu Marriage Act and were asked by the Sub-Registrar to register it under the Special Marriage Act as their wedding was an inter-religious one. Sharmila told reporters that Kodaikanal was a peaceful place and her search for peace had ended here.
The rights activist said she would raise her voice for the welfare of tribals in Kodaikanal hills. The wedding was objected to by a local activist V Mahendran, who contended that if the couple stayed in the hills, tribals in the area would face law and order problems.
However, the sub-registrar rejected the objection, clearing the decks for Sharmila’s wedding with Coutinho. The couple had submitted their application for marriage registration under the Special Marriage Act on July 12 and the Sub-Registrar had called for objections, if any, within 30 days time. A group of tribals in the area, including Palani Malai Pulaiyan and Paliyar had submitted a memorandum to the Sub-Registrar in support of the Sharmila-Coutinho wedding.
Sharmila had moved to this hill town with Coutinho following her defeat in the Manipur Assembly elections in March last in which her party ‘People’s Resurgence and Justice Alliance’ had been routed.
The 44-year-old activist had shot to fame after launching an indefinite fast on November 4, 2000, demanding withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from Manipur. Sharmila, also known as the ‘Iron Lady’, broke her 16-year-long fast, the world’s longest, on August 9, 2016 and declared that she wanted to become the chief minister so she could repeal the contentious AFSPA.