With a cream shawl draped around her head, renowned human rights activist Irom Sharmilla walked into the registrar office in Kodaikanal to get married to her British partner Desmond Coutinha on Thursday. Standing beside the bride, was CPI(ML) activist and documentary filmmaker Divya Bharathi, who held a small bouquet of roses.
In a crowded room at the sub-registrar's office in Kodaikanal, a media contingent waited with the couple and Divya. As soon as the three witnesses, all residents from Kodaikanal. turned up, the wedding was formalised.
The couple spent two months to complete legal formalities. The activist from Manipur went ahead with her decision on the location, despite opposition from various groups. They had alleged that her presence in Kodaikanal would lead to social unrest.
The couple obtained their marriage papers under the 'Special Marriage Act 1954' from the registrar office on Thursday morning. Their wedding was devoid of any fanfare and even family members of both the bride and the bridegroom were not present.
On August 4, the Hindu Makkal Katchi filed a petition in Kodaikanal against the proposed wedding of the human rights campaigner. The organisation alleged that allowing Irom to stay and get married in the hill station would ruin the peace and tranquillity of the city. Before that, in July, a social activist made the same arguments.
Irom had responded to this by saying, "I donâ€™t know why they are scared about us getting married. It is a private life of two persons. Whether we are getting married or not, we will live together in the house in Kodaikanal. I donâ€™t know what kind of threat a marriage of two persons could pose to the beautiful State."
Asked about her plans after marriage, Sharmila reportedly said she will be settling down in the hill-station and is set to embark on her new mission against AFSPA for bringing about peace and justice in the country.
On August 9, Irom declared that Divya Bharati will be her bridesmaid, while attending a seminar on freedom of expression to support the filmmaker.
She further extended her support to Divya, whose film on manual scavenging has made her the target of immense harrassment. The documentary displays the state's failure to implement the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013, has put the government of Tamil Nadu on the backfoot.
The Madurai police had registered a case under two sections of IPC against Divya for promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race, etc, and for promoting hatred among communities, classes. Puthiya Thamilagam, a Dalit party, had filed the complaint alleging that she had wrongly projected members of Pallar caste (a Dalit community) indulging in manual scavenging.
Following this, the filmmaker has been subjected to immense harrassment, abuse, death threats and misogyny both online and on her phone.