TODAY -

The human torch and AFSPA
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: August 17 2017 -



One may call it sheer coincidence or perfect synchronization. Whereas the State of Manipur has been commemorating the painful but heroic death of Pebam Chittaranjan, then just 28 year old who self immolated demanding complete repeal of the infamous Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA 1958 from Manipur, there is a news report which says that Manipur and Assam can now decide on AFSPA.

The Union Home Ministry is set to give up its power to impose the ‘disturbed areas’ tag on Assam and Manipur, both ruled by the BJP.

The move effectively means it will be the States’ decision to either continue AFSPA or revoke it”, reads the news report published in the Hindu.

Pebam Chittaranjan’s sacrifice symbolises the height of Manipuri people’s disdain for the dreaded AFSPA.

He sacrificed his young life so that the people of Manipur can live without fear of AFSPA.

Whether AFSPA goes away or continues to haunt the collective psyche, people will always remember Pebam Chittaranjan fondly who has been given a befitting sobriquet The Human Torch.

It was on August 15, 2004 Pebam Chittaranjan took the extreme step of self-immolation following the brutal rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama in June same year.

He died the next day. One does not need any reminder that AFSPA gives sweeping power to the military forces.

Somebody once commented that people are all living dead where AFSPA is in force as even non-commissioned military personnel can shoot to kill a citizen on mere suspicion.

It was against this backdrop that Chittaranjan wrote in his farewell note “It is better to self-immolate than die at the hands of security forces under this Act. With this conviction I am marching ahead of the people as a human torch’’.

People in this part of the world where AFSPA is being imposed for decades are either sub-humans or living dead, a human rights activist once lamented.

Presenting her report before the 26th session of the UN Human Rights Council held at Geneva on June 12, 2014, UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo, who visited Manipur the previous year, recommended that AFSPA, 1958 should be repealed as a matter of urgency.

However, the Government of India’s delegation argued mainly with the operational need of the Army, saying that in some areas it would be necessary to protect armed forces in order to be effective, although there should be no misuse of AFSPA in Manipur.

This argument of the Government of India only exposes a sectarian attitude.

Compared to the North East region or Manipur in particular, insurgency movement of much higher intensity is being witnessed in the so called Red Corridor, heavily infested by Maoists.

Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh stated that the Maoism is the biggest threat to the country’s integrity.

Yet, the Government of India never even once mulled about imposing AFSPA in any part of the Red Corridor.

Again, Manipur is no more ‘disturbed’ than the Red Corridor where Maoists militants have unleashed militancy to the maximum.

It appears that the Government of India has been employing different parameters for measuring the degree of disturbances witnessed in different parts of its territory.

As reported, if the Government of India is sincerely willing to relinquish the power of declaring disturbed areas in Assam and Manipur, it would be the respective State Governments who must shoulder the onus of repealing the dreaded Act from the two neighbouring States.

If they decide otherwise, they must be ready to face people’s wrath, reproofs as well as mass agitation for they would not able to throw the ball to the Court of Government of India any more.

Pebam Chittaranjan died a martyr for a cause which cannot be less nobler than any other cause. His sacrifice must not go in vain.



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