She later ate voluntarily for the first time in over 800 weeks, telling reporters: "I want to join politics because I've been called the Iron Lady of Manipur and I want to live up to that name".

While many of Ms Sharmila’s followers have supported her decision, others have blamed the influence of Desmond Coutinho, a British citizen of Goan origin whom Ms Sharmila is now rumoured to be planning to marry.

Mr Coutinho, a writer and activist, began sending letters to Ms Sharmila after reading about her struggle in a book in 2009.

She replied, and after a long correspondence they met two years later when he came to see her in court.

In December 2014, female activists attacked Mr Coutinho in the Imphal courthouse, accusing him of distracting Ms Sharmila from her protest.

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