S.O.S e – Voice For Justice – e-news weekly
Spreading the light of humanity & freedom
Editor: Nagaraja.M.R.. Vol.11..Issue.45….….07/11/2015
Editorial : REPEAL ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT in Manipur – An Appeal to H. E. Honourable President of India
I am writing to express solidarity to the fifteen year – long fast of Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady of Manipur and her cause.
I am informed that Sharmila has started the fast on 5 November 2000, protesting against the violence committed by state and non-state actors in Manipur. I am aware that the protest also demands an immediate end of impunity in the state, for which the withdrawal of the martial law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), from Manipur is a prerequisite.
I am worried about the sufferings of the ordinary people of Manipur at the hands of the underground militant organisations as well as the state agencies.
I am aware that the AFSPA is enforced in Manipur to support government actions in the state in countering secessionist activities and underground militant acts. Yet, it is now certain that the AFSPA has not helped in countering militancy in Manipur, but in fact has enraged it.
I am informed that the climate of impunity is one of the reasons why conflict continues in Manipur.
The AFSPA, as far I understand is an addition to the overall impunity framework that has contributed to the deterioration of the state of rule of law in Manipur. My opinion is also shared by national bodies including Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee; the Second Administrative Reforms Commission; and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir. I am informed that these eminent bodies have recommended the government to withdraw AFSPA from operation since they are of the informed opinion that a law like the AFSPA will only facilitate violence and not prevent it.
I am convinced that under the current circumstances in Manipur the withdrawal of AFSPA will not in itself solve the Manipur crisis.
Yet, it could be a bold and open step by the government to show that it is determined to find solution to an armed conflict that has haunted an entire generation in the state. The withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur will be recognition to the sufferings of the state’s people and an expression of respect and acknowledgment of their rights.
Additionally, withdrawing AFSPA from Manipur will be a catalyst to end the climate of impunity in the state. Jai Hind. Vande Mataram.
Your’s sincerely ,
Nagaraja .M. R.
Repeal AFSPA – An Open Letter to Honourable Chief Justice of India
Honourable Chief Justice of India ,
Supreme Court of India ,
Kind Attn: Justice Shri. H . L . Dattu
We are writing this letter to you with my faith in judiciary and deep pain in my heart. The pain is there because as a citizen of this democracy, we would like to have every right to be heard and to raise our voice.
By this public letter, we want to raise our voice before you (before the highest institution of law in my country) as the issue about which we are requesting, is associated with the interest of public by and large and thus your intervention will be helpful in protection of law as well as in establishing and maintaining our faith in constitution and its values.
We are talking about Irom Sharmila, a lady who is domicile of Manipur and who is observing a hunger protest since last 15 years (since the year 2000). The objective is to register the grievance against human rights violations in Manipur and the demand is to repeal the AFSPA (Armed forces special power act).
The lady has every right to register and to protest as she is associated with the people of Manipur who faced the ill effects of this draconian law. However, through this letter, we would like to make it clear that like in every other such protests, government always try to come with solution including visits, negotiation, reviews, public debates and hearings, referendum etc; however in this case/demand, no such steps have been taken from the side of government yet.
It has also to be noted that some human rights activists have submitted petitions before NHRC (National Human Rights Commission) , but NHRC disposed off almost all such petitions and replies that the matter is political.
We, the citizens of India, who understand the issue, may be divided in two parts , one is the indians who support AFSPA, another is the indians who oppose AFSPA. But still, both of these categories supports Irom Sharmila on democratic and humanitarian grounds and criticize government/ courts/ NHRC because no concrete steps have been taken by such responsible agencies/institutions.
I believe that the ongoing fast of Irom Sharmila is the symbol of her faith in democratic values and non violence. The fact that the Government has not taken any positive steps also hurts us and our faith in democracy.
We would like to bring to your kind attention these facts:
· She is a human rights activist and has been fighting not for the cause of one individual or herself, but for the society as a whole . The charge of “ attempt to suicide ” is disgraceful. · She is charged under “ attempt to suicide ” and facing ‘arrest’ for this attempt. Every time she move to court and repeat her statement for not to break her fast and her arrest extended. Is it right to provide order of ‘arrest’ for the same charge repeatedly?
· Sharmila’s fight is based on non violence. She talks about peace, love and non violence in her each message. But the Government has ignored her. In these 15 years, no parliamentary delegation or all-party representative group was ever sent to Manipur. There hasn’t even been any continuous approach of communication.
· NHRC has also not arranged any official visit of members of this institution to meet Irom Sharmila and people of Manipur.
· The meeting procedure is also very difficult. It is, unlike, as in all other cases of suicide attempt or as in case of an ordinary prisoner. She has been charged under the attempt to suicide but doesn’t forced solitary confinement increase the chances of suicide?
· She is not allowed to meet the public . When other prisoners charged with the same or more serious charge are allowed, then why not her? It violates the Right to equality before law. is it not violating Article 19 under which she has right to freedom of speech, peaceful assembly, move freely.
· The suppression of a non-violent voice may discourage people from using this method of protest and will encourage violent ways.
· It has been seen that government has a practice to make efforts for negotiation and to take action and to initiate a process when any such fast has been organized in New Delhi in past, however government has not approached to Irom in spite of her 15 years long fast. Is it not the violation of right where it is told that ‘The state shall not discriminate against any citizen on the basis of caste, religion, race , place of birth etc’
· Many national/international agencies, eminent persons like Nobel peace prize winners, Padma awardees, Magsaysay awardees, many social activists and intellectuals and general public have been raising this issue. In view of this suppression by the Government, and the necessity to protect the values of humanity and democracy, I request here to you (Chief Justice, Supreme Court of India) for protection of human rights.
The issue has not only appealed to the general public but has become known on an international scale as well. I request you
· To issue notice to the Government of India on the issue
· To constitute a committee of retired/sitting judge, human rights activists, parliamentrians to submit reports on this issue and review condition
· To make Irom Sharmila free
· To advise NHRC to arrange an official visit of members of NHRC at Manipur to meet Irom Sharmila
We hope that our faith in this institution will be maintained by the actions of the institution in favor of protection of human rights in this case.
25 years of AFSPA: 43,000 dead in 21 years
Days before the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act completes 25 years in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, a report by Amnesty looks at the excesses of the security forces and urges for an urgent repeal of the Act
Ghulam Nabi Magray recalls that the last time he saw his 17-year-old son, Javaid was in his room. It was on April 30, 2003. The next morning, he recalls, is that he saw his son’s dead body was in Soura Medical College, after spending a few harrowing hours at the Soiteng army camp, and then the Nowgam police station, Barzalla Hospital and SMSH Hospital. His son was picked up by the an official of the Assam regiment, and tortured to death. Moments after his son’s disappearance, Ghulam Nabi saw bloodstains and a broken tooth in the lane outside his house.
An FIR registered by the army against Javaid said that he had carried out “anti-national activity or militancy.” However, an inquiry carried out by the district magistrate said that the “deceased boy was not a militant…and has been killed without any justification by a Subedar.”
On April 28 2010, a man named Bashir Ahmad Lone asked three men Riyaz Ahmad Lone (20), Mohammad Shafi Lone (19), and Shazad Ahmad Khan (27) to travel to Machil, a place close to the Pakistan border, for jobs. That was the last anyone heard of them. The army reportedly killed the three in a fake encounter.
In the summer of 2010, more than 100 protestors were shot dead by security forces, while 3,500 were arrested and 120 detained under the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA). And in 2014, the Jammu and Kashmir state home department, in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application, disclosed that 16,329 people had been detained in administrative detention under the PSA at various times since 1988.
In August 2011, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) in J&K stated that that it had found 2,730 unidentified bodies buried in unmarked graves in three districts of north Kashmir. The SHRC announced its intention to attempt to identify the bodies through DNA sampling.
The impunity of human rights violation in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is aided by the imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990. Under section 7 of the Act, security forces are immune to prosecution from human rights violation. July 5, 2015 marks 25 years since the imposition of AFSPA and thereby, the killing, torture, kidnapping and rape of thousands.
An Amnesty report “Denied: Failures in accountability for human rights violations by security force personnel in Jammu and Kashmir”, released Wednesday, documents the army’s excesses and looks at how the government’s response to these violations failed to deliver justice. What is momentous, the report adds, is that the current chief minister of the state, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister when AFSPA was imposed on the state.
“The violence in Jammu and Kashmir has taken a terrible human toll on all sides. From 1990 to 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir state government reportedly recorded a total of over 43,000 people killed. Of those killed, 21,323 were said to be ‘militants’,10 13,226 ‘civilians’ (those not directly involved in the hostilities) killed by armed groups, 5,369 security force personnel killed by armed groups, and 3,642 ‘civilians’ killed by security forces. Armed groups have committed thousands of abuses. In general, victims of human rights abuses in the state have been unable to secure justice, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a state or non-state actor,” reads the report.
Activists, the report states, claim that the number of casualty is twice as much. Amnesty International alone records that in the early mid-1990s, more than 800 cases of torture and deaths occurred in the custody of the security forces, apart from hundreds of extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances between 1989 to 2013.
The report further notes that in December, 2013 both the Chief of Army Staff and Head of the army’s Northern Command declared that there was “zero tolerance” for human rights violence by army personnel. Despite that, “96% of all complaints brought against the army in Jammu & Kashmir have been dismissed as ‘false and baseless’ or ‘with other ulterior motives of maligning the image of Armed Forces’,” said the report.
Complaints against excesses carried out by army officials and internal security forces are carried out within the military judicial system, denying fair trial. As per the Army Act, district court martial and summary court martials are restricted to rank personnel and two years imprisonment is the maximum punishment they can award.
It also notes that, “ … security forces operating in Jammu and Kashmir have exacerbated this situation by routinely failing to cooperate with criminal investigations, civilian courts and government-ordered enquiries, and subjecting those pursuing complaints to threats, intimidation and harassment.”
The Army Act of 1950 also prohibits trying officers of the forces for “civil offences” like rape, murder unless it was committed while in service, outside India. As Jammu and Kashmir is considered a “disturbed area”, with the exclusion of Ladakh and Leh, officials claim to be in active service all the time and are tried by military courts only.
“The Supreme Court of India has also criticised the military justice system and recommended reforms on a number of occasions, notably in 1982 when it quoted another judgement which observed, ‘[c]ourts-martial are typically ad hoc bodies appointed by a military officer from among his subordinates. They have always been subject to varying degrees of command influence. In essence, these tribunals are simply executive tribunals whose personnel are in the executive chain of command’,” reads the report.
The report was prepared by Amnesty based on field research, documentation and information provided by officials under the RTI Act, Jammu and Kashmir State Act and Central Act. Amnesty also met with 58 families members of victims of alleged human rights violations.
Till today, the army refuses to disclose the number of personnel deployed in the state. Experts claim that there are anywhere around 6,00,000 troops, to aid counter-insurgency operations and guard the ‘Line of Control’ bordering Pakistan. That is, “in addition to deployments of CRPF and BSF personnel, whose primary charge is to aid the state police in the maintenance of law and order,” says the report.
The ministry of defence has received several applications seeking sanctions to prosecute army officials for human rights violations, even though the number is difficult to ascertain due to the lack of transparency of the process. “According to a Ministry of Defence response dated 18 April 2012 to an application filed under the Right to Information Act, 2005 by activists in J&K, the MoD had received 44 applications seeking sanction to prosecute army personnel for criminal offences committed in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990,” reads the report. However, sanction was denied in 35 cases as of April 3, 2012.
Three families have challenged these denial of sanctions; family of Manzoor Ahmad Mir, who was taken away in 2003 and believed to be killed, family of Ashiq Hussain who was tortured to death in custody in 1993, and Javaid’s family. Manzoor’s family said that it was a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution. However, there has been no response to that by the Union of India in the court since, and there has been no hearing.
The army has had a few prosecutions. These include the death of two men, Faisal Yusuf Bhat and Mehrajuddin Dar, in November, 2014, who died after personnel fired at their car. The army admitted that it was “a mistake”. Another includes the announcement by the army last November to try nine personnel of the 53 Rashtriya Rifles under military law for killings.
The AFSPA and the excesses committed under it also violate the right to truth, to remedy, to reparation. It is the duty of the state to provide justice under international human rights standards, including Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, The Basic Principles and Guideline on the Right to a Remedy and Reparation or Victims of Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Serious Violations of International Humanitarian Law, and Article 2(3) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which India is a state party.
“The definitions of grievous hurt are not in line with the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which India signed in 1997 but has yet to ratify. Proposals to further codify the crime of torture in a Prevention of Torture Bill, 2010, which lapsed in 2014, in any case fell short of the standard required under the Convention,” reads the report.
The JS Verma committee, after the December 16 rape case, too, recommended that AFSPA should be amended to bring sexual violence against women by members of the armed forces or uniformed personnel under criminal law.
The report also speaks of the violence carried out by the state police. Like in the case of Sheila, who despite being tortured and sexually assaulted by a deputy superintendent of police, could not register a complaint with the police. She was 15 or 16 years, and was picked up by the police to investigate the death of a suspected militant, who was her neighbour. Police constables beat her with the leg of a chair, which had nails attached to it, and she was on the first day of her period.
“The DSP (came in and) beat me with the leg of the chair with the nails still in it — on my legs, on my stomach and my vaginal parts. Then I fell unconscious. The nails went inside my legs and made them swell,” she says. After she tried to register a complaint, the Inspector General came to her house with a cheque of Rs 2 lakh, and jobs for her brother. Sheila refused and registered a complaint with the State Human Rights Commission. Nothing happened after that.
In 2012, the state government drafted a Bill to establish Police Complaints Authorities at the state and district level. The Bill, which suffers from serious flaws, has not yet been presented before the state legislative assembly.
The report recommends, apart from the repeal of AFSPA, that the jurisdiction of military courts be restrained to those of strictly military nature, apart from removing all requirements of sanction for prosecuting army personnel for excesses carried on innocent civilians. They further recommend that investigation proceedings must be made public, apart from defining all forms of torture, forced disappearances and crime as per international law. Cases of past inquiry findings of violations must be made public, whereas compensation mechanism be well-defined. Security forces against whom complaints are registered be withdrawn, and personnel be trained in international human rights standards.
INDIA: 10 questions to Union Home Minister on Manipur
The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) appreciates the effort taken by the Home Minister of India in undertaking a visit to Manipur. Manipur is one of the states in India with a poor human rights record. During the past three years the number of encounter killings reported from the state has steadily increased, until the state administration faced severe criticism for the public execution of two persons on July 23, 2009 by the state police.
The Home Minister is known to be having a professional as well as no-nonsense approach in work. Many in India hold him at a high esteem, referring to the Minister as a person who assesses officers and institutions under his command on the basis of their performance. Based on these references, the AHRC wishes to place before the Home Minister the following questions, so that the Minister will be able to help the state administration and the people of Manipur in finding a sensible solution to the six decade long internal conflict in that state.
1. Can the state administration account for the money that it has spent in the past five years for countering insurgent activities in the state? Can it provide the exact details as to who was paid what amount? It is not required for the state government to publically account every single Rupee of the tax money that it has spent on countering insurgency. But it must be able to produce records to the satisfaction of the Union Home Ministry for at least those expenses, where the spending was Rs. 200,000 or above in a single payment.
The AHRC appreciates the value and sensitivity of ‘human.int.’ in counter insurgency work. Yet, the state administration must be able to account to the Union Home Ministry that supports the release of such ‘Central Funds’ to state government.
2. What training was provided to the Manipur State Police and its State Police Commando Unit in the past two years to deal with insurgency? Does it meet the requirements of training offered to a civilian police force that is to undertake counter insurgency activities respecting the rule of law? How many police officers have received such training?
3. What is the process of recruitment to the state police in Manipur? What is the guarantee that the candidates selected for training and appointment in the state police are not selected on the basis of bribes paid to the Chief Minister or to his party’s MLAs?
The AHRC has credible information that to secure appointment as a Trainee Sub-Inspector in Manipur, a candidate is required to pay Rs. 1,400,000 to Rs. 1,800,000 as bribe to the Chief Minister or to a designated MLA as of 2010. The AHRC is informed that the officers upon appointment, realises through various means from the public the bribe they have paid to secure a job in the state police service. The AHRC also has credible information that in the process police officers are engaged in extortion, conniving with some of the criminal elements that are also listed in the prohibited organisations’ list by the Union Government. It is reported that such widespread corruption is one of the important reasons for a high number of encounter killings and unabated criminal extortion in the state.
4. How many police officers have been investigated in the past three years for crimes alleged to have committed by them, in particular torture and criminal extortion? If any such investigation has been conducted, who has been prosecuted?
If not why?
5. How many instances of encounter killing — other than the July 23 incident — have been investigated in the past three years in Manipur? What prevents the state from complying the recommendations made by the National Human Rights Commission concerning encounter killing? If the state administration has conducted such investigations, why is that the reports not sent to the Commission?
6. Why is that most cases of encounter killing show the same pattern?
Most of the cases of encounter killing documented by human rights organisations in Manipur, shows the following pattern: a person is arrested by unidentified police commandos who are often accompanied by officers from a para-military unit or from a military detachment stationed in the state; the arrested person is detained in custody illegally, often for days; later the person found dead at a distant place; the state police immediately release a press note saying that the person was shot dead in an armed encounter; weapons (mostly 0.9 mm pistols, grenades, live cartridges) are shown as recovered from the deceased insurgent.
It would be interesting for the Union Home Ministry to verify how many such recovered/seized articles are produced in courts as material objects recovered from armed insurgents. How many of such recovered materials are kept in police custody? Do they all have separate identification marks? Does the articles and their number tally with the statements issued by the state police in each case? Does the state police have any such accounting system? If so, will the state police dare to make the list public? If not why?
Will the Home Ministry be willing to undertake an impartial accounting of recovered articles? The AHRC is willing to collaborate in such a process with the Union as well as State administration.
In 2009, between January and November, the state police have reported 272 executions, which was publically admitted by Mr. Joykumar Singh, the current Director General of Police. In most of the cases, the above pattern has been noted.
This proves two things. One, it defies logic. Further it could also suggest that the state police are ill equipped and ill prepared that many persons they arrest escape from their custody. Or, it has to be assumed that the state police is well informed that at least 24 times each month in 2009, the state police were able to intercept and engage an armed insurgent invariably resulting in the murder of the armed insurgent. If the latter were the case, there must be no more armed insurgents operating openly in the state, or the insurgents are so naïve that they always expose their armed presence to the state police. None of these would satisfy commonsense or the acumen of a lawyer, which Mr. Shinde is.
7. Will the state administration put an end to the illegal tax collection of some of the armed insurgent groups in Manipur? It is common knowledge that in Manipur many armed insurgent groups prohibited by the Union Government have setup illegal tax collection (criminal extortion) counters adjacent to police check posts on public roads. Every person, particularly drivers in Manipur know this or are their victims. Why have the state police not stopped it? Or are they hand-in-glove with the insurgents? Or is it the police themselves posing as insurgents?
The Home Minister must know that today in Manipur, it is hard to distinguish between an insurgent and a police officer. Both kills with impunity, extorts money by force from the people and are unaccountable to everything under the sun. Can the Home Minister contribute to change this situation?
8. What plans has the state administration made and executed to regain the confidence of the public? At the moment, Manipur is like a volcano that could erupt anytime. Has the state administration taken the effort to make public its public confidence building plans if they have any? If not, what prevented them in doing so?
9. Will the Home Minister meet Ms. Irom Chanu Sharmila? Reports from India inform that the Home Minister will meet human rights activists in Imphal. Does the Home Minister see Sharmila as a threat to the peace of Manipur or a unifying factor to its fragile social fabric?
10. Will the Home Minister make a public report about his visit to Manipur? The public need not know the nuances of the state’s security scenario. But every Indian, especially each person in Manipur has a right to know what is their future in terms of their safety and security. Today they have only stories of fear and anger to say about their Chief Minister and the administration he leads. Can the Union Home Minister bring a difference?
If not what hope does Manipuries have of being part of the world’s largest democracy?
AFSPA Must Go–The Draconian Law Completes 57 Years
On 4th of March 2009, when it was touching noon,(around 11:50 am), Mohd Azad Khan was reading a newspaper in the courtyard of his house along with one of his neighbouring friends, in Phoubakachao Makha Leikai Yumnan village of west Imphal district, Manipur. Azad, a barely 12 year old boy and a student of class seventh at the local high school, was sitting with his friend Kiyam Anad Singh (14 years), when some personnel of the Manipur Police Commandos rushed in to his house. One of the personnel dragged Azad by both of his hands and started beating him severly. Meanwhile, the commandos asked Kiyam the reason for keeping company with Azad. Didn’t he not know, Azad was an activist of an underground organisation. The commandos showed him a gun saying that it belonged to Azad and slapped him on his face. Subsequently, Azad was dragged out some 70 metres towards the north.
While Azad was being dragged out of the courtyard, the commandos fired some rounds in the air and at the same time other commandos prevented his mother and family from following them, pointing guns and forcing them to go inside their house. After dragging Azad, he was pushed down on the paddy field and shot dead. Almost immediately, the commandos threw a pistol near the dead body. The whole incident was witnessed by his family members as well as neighbouring villagers, as all of this happened in broad daylight. After the killing, the dead body was taken away by the raiding commandos in their vehicles. The villagers tried following the police commandos but were stopped.
Azad is not alone
Believe me, this is not the script of a horror/action film but a real life story. What is most disturbing is that the case of Azad is only one amongst the hundreds killed in cold blood. Over the years, cold blooded murder, or ‘encounter’, as they call it, has become a routine of Manipur. Like Azad, you would be reading the newspaper today and be a news item in tomorrow’s newspaper, which too would be limited to those published in Manipur and neighbouring areas. In the same year, on 23rd July, Chongkham Sanjit (27 years old), was killed in cold blood in broad daylight, barely 500 metres from the state assembly. But it was only when the newsweekly Tehelka, published the photographs of the episode by an anonymous photographer, that news of Sanjit’s cold blooded murder reached us.
Cold blooded killings, and, in particular, fake encounters by the Manipur Police Commandos (MPC) have become a day-to-day affair in the life of Manipuris. In 2008, there were 27 recorded cases of torture and killings by the MPC. In several cases, ordinary civilians carrying money and valuables have been robbed and sometimes killed. In few of the cases, official ‘action’ has been taken but for the most part, their extra-judicial activities goes scot free. In fact, it happens the other way around. Take the case of Azad. Her mother Garamjan Bibi deposed before an Independent People’s Tribunal headed by Justice (retired) K K Usha of Kerala High Court, during 11-13 December 2009. “When I tried to bring out the truth, filling a case with police, the police commandos, warned me to withdraw the case if I wanted to save my life.” It must be mentioned, in all of the cases, Commandos repeatedly threatened the petitioners to withdraw the cases. What is more glaring is that it is not just happening in Manipur only, but different parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir as well.
The root Cause
Why is it happening so? What makes these forces so powerful, or rather, so brutal? The answer is, Arms Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)-1958, a draconian law in the name of maintaining law and order in the so-called disturbed areas. According to the Act, in an area that is declared as ‘disturbed’, even a non- commissioned officer of the armed forces has powers to: “Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the extent of causing death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law”, against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons. To arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force on anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so and to enter and search any premise at any time in order to make such arrests. It gives army officers legal protection for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under the law.
The act is not only problematic because of violation of rights that occur in ‘disturbed areas’. But it is also problematic because once the AFSPA is in force – as it is in all Northeast Indian states – the government through a simple notification can declare any area, the entire state, or parts of the state, as ‘disturbed’ without any public debate. The deployment of the armed forces, the suspension of fundamental freedoms and the ‘special powers’ of the armed forces can immediately come into force. An area can remain ‘disturbed’ for years with no end. The act legitimizes a localized form of indefinite emergency rule in the areas. Ironically, the Act is nothing but a replica of the 1942 Ordinance framed by the colonial powers to control the wave of Indian freedom struggle.
AFSPA must go
It has been 57 years, since the act came into being. And over the years, it has become an established fact that due to the draconian law, hundreds of ordinary citizens of the so-called disturbed states like Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir have lost their lives. Extra-judicial killings, illegal detention, rape, torture has become a routine affair for the people—men, women, old and child all alike, of these ‘disturbed areas’. The act has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness by the one who is supposed to protect their life, liberty and dignity. Even the Justice Reddy Committee, appointed by Government to study the issue during UPA-I admits it, “the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high handedness.” And without an iota of doubt, the impacts of the draconian laws like AFSPA are far reaching and disastrous. These are tools of the Indian government, through which it is alienating and pushing towards the wall its ‘own-people’. Government after government, no matter which party is at the helm of affairs, is not worried about these people, nor ready to scrap this tool of oppression.
This 22nd May, when the draconian law is completing its 53th year of enactment and going to enter the 54th, it is the duty of us, the people from the so-called mainland India to stand up by the side of (or with) the oppressed and demand to scrap the AFSPA. After all, injustice anywhere is everywhere. It is time to join Irom Chanu Sharmila, who is on her fast unto death, now going to enter in eleventh year, with the firm resolution to see the Act meet its end and an end to the injustice (mostly unaccounted) by the armed forces on the innocent civilians. Today when hundreds and thousands of people from Kashmir to Manipur are demanding to scrap the AFSPA, let us come together and join hands, stand in solidarity with the people of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Kashmir and say : AFSPA must go now and by now. Enough is enough.
‘Fifteen Years Of Hunger Strike’ And ‘57 Years Of Bloody AFSPA’
By Lalit Shukla
North East India comprises seven sister states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, and Tripura) and Sikkim and a narrow corridor between Bhutan and Bangladesh links North Eastern part to mainland India. During British colonial rule, it was treated separately from British India. After independence of India from British colonial rule, north eastern region was included in India in very undemocratic way and apparently Indian government continued colonial treatment of this region and never sincerely responded to the problems faced by its habitants. Most of the tribal population of India lives in the North East region. There are conflicts due to unequal power equations among different cultural and ethnic communities. So far Indian government is trying to solve political problem of socio-economic conflict by colonial oppressive military rule and continuously denying people’s right of self-determination.Much of the bloodshed and genocide could have been avoided if voices of habitant people have been listen by ruling class of India. Indian state looks at this region for its strategic importance and for its petroleum and tea not as part of country. Much of the North East region is under Armed Force Special Power Act (AFSPA) since 1958 to combat insurgency and militancy.
AFSPA empowers armed forces to use lethal forces against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order, destroy shelters or training camps from which armed attacks are likely to made, arrest any person without warrant on suspense who has committed or about to commit a cognizable crime, enter and search anywhere without warrant, stop, search and seize any vehicle on suspense on acting personnel’s opinion. The law gives guaranty that no prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, free movement, practice of any profession, and protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion, as enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Constitution.
Autocracies under AFSPA
On July 11, 1987Assam Rifles launched a counter insurgency Operation Blue bird under the command of General PL Kukrety, General Officer in Command (GOC), Manipur Sector. During the course of operation gross human rights violations were committed.The Naga People Movement for Human Rights filed Court case against the 21st Assam Files in Guwahati High Court on eight specific human rights violations (a) deaths of 27 persons during Operation Bluebird (b) rape and sexual harassment (c) torture of 300 persons (d) illegal arrests and detention (e) burning and dismantling of more than 100 homes (f) dismantling of schools and churches (g) looting of property (h) forced labour.The area surrounding the Oinam Hill village, around forty villages suffered the brunt of Operation Bluebird. The whole area were sealed off, movement both vehicular and human were restricted. Press were denied access. Public leaders were detained and tortured. Medical supply/services were cut off. Village schools were closed down. Village grounds became concentration camps. Churches became concentration camps. Every going out and coming in were vigilantly monitored even after the operation was officially over.
In 1988 for three consecutive days from 31st May- 2nd Junejawans of the 27 Assam rifles, who were on duty gang raped about 14 tribal women in Ujanmaidan, West Tripura. Many other autocracies under AFSPA in Tripura are documented here.
On September 14, 1991 Indian Army launched operation Rhinoagainst ULFA. Severe human right violations by Security forces have been well documented by Human Rights Organizations in India.
On November 2, 2000at around 3:20 pm personnel of the Assam Rifles shot dead 10 civilian in Malom, a town in the Imphal valley including one of a 62-year old woman, LeisangbamIbetomi, and 18-year old SinamChandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. They were waiting at bus stop. After firing, many people were dragged out of their house and severely beaten up by the personnel of the Paramilitary Force.
On July 11, 2004 at approximately 12:30 a.m. several 17th Battalion of Assam Rifles personnelpicked up32-year-oldThangiamManorama from her home and assaulted her two younger brothers and her elderly mother when they tried to stop them. Security personnel forced family to sign “No Claim Certificate” and gave arrest demo which stated Manorama was arrested on the suspicion that she had links with the underground People’s Liberation Army (PLA). Her partially clothed body with scratch marks from fingers all over her body, a deep gashing knife wound on her right thigh, signs of bruises on her breasts, deep cut marks on her inner thighs, and genitals, and several bullet wounds was found dumped on the side of a road later that day. Family refused to take her body demanding inquiry to probe murder. Assam Rifles claimed that she was shot while trying to escape. However, no blood was found near the body despite six bullet wounds. No soldier was identified as having tried to run or detain her. In protest, many women walked naked through Imphal to the Assam Rifles headquarters, shouting: “Indian Army, rape us too… We are all Manorama’s mothers.” Till date nothing has been done to punish the people responsible for it.
In the writ petition filed in Supreme Court of India by Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association (EEVFAM) it is stated that during the period May, 1979to May, 2012, 1528 people were killed in Manipur in extra-judicialexecution. A memorandum prepared by ‘CivilSociety Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the UN’ compiles the list of 1528 people allegedly killed unlawfully by the StatePolice or the security forces.The writ petitioners submitted compilation of cases in which 28 people out of 1528 were killed. In all those cases the judicial inquiry found that the victims werenot members of any insurgent or unlawful groupsand they were killed by thepolice or security forces in cold blood and stagemanaged encounters and the High Court simply directed for payment ofmonetary compensation to the kins of the victims instead of anyaccountability for cold blooded murder which perfectly suits the security forcesand they only get encouraged to carry out further killings with impunity.
There are severe human right violation and much more autocracies under AFSPA documented and undocumented. The region is kept virtually under martial law by Indian state. Foreigners are allowed to visit only restricted regions. Getting information and investigations of reports of human rights violations by the Indian Army and security forces is extremely difficult.
Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike
Irom Chanu Sharmila born on 14th March 1972 in Imphal, Manipur is youngest of nine siblings. From childhood, she has seen people suffering due autocracies under military occupation and heard stories of revolutionary war and lost in the conflict. To fight in solidarity with suffering people she started volunteeringas an intern for the “Independent People’s Inquiry Commission” at Human Rights Alert, helping victim of violence, and taking part in protest and peace march.
On 2nd November 2000, she was in Malom preparing for a peace rally when she came to know the news of 10 innocent people being gunned down by Assam Rifles personnel. She was deeply shocked after this massacre of innocent people. On 5th November, she started indefinite hunger strike to repeal AFSPA.
Three days after she stated her fast, she was arrested by police and charged with an “attempt to commit suicide” and was transferred to judicial custody later. To keep her alive while under arrest nasogastric intubation was forced on her on 21st November. She has been released and rearrested each year as she keeps continue her strike after every release.
Amnesty International has declared her a prisoner of conscience. Many human rights activists and organizations from all over the world have raised their voice in solidarity with Sharmila’sstruggle to repeal AFSPA.This heroic struggle of IromSharmila for demilitarization of the region is a great example of peaceful resistance in the world.
While state seems in no mood to repeal bloody AFSPA and continue oppression on people by killing dissident voices with impunity, people are bound to revolt. A continuous humiliation and torture of people living under AFSPA is just unbearable. This colonial rule and bloody thrust of power and resources must end. When peaceful protest in world’s so called largest democracy is treated as crime, when woman on hunger strike from 15 year summoned in court as a criminal, when women are raped and children are killed in the name of national security, where maximum justice leads to only some monetary compensation with complete impunity to murderers, this state need not to be exist. Where all door to justice are closed, when oppressor state only aim to exploit natural resources, human labour, and a dream to live peacefully, struggle against murderer state must live. There are no other options. State can’t rule people’s dream on the gun power. One day these struggling masses will unite and destroy this powerful oppressive state and liberate themselves to make a society based on equality, justice, and love.
Down with state imperialism!
All power to struggling masses for justice!
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