TODAY -

AFSPA and its impact on the common people of Manipur

Romen Ningthoujam *

Peaceful March for Save Democracy - Repeal AFSPA at New Delhi :: 2 October, 2011
Peaceful March for Save Democracy - Repeal AFSPA at New Delhi on 2 October, 2011 :: Photo Credit - Save Democracy Repeal AFSPA Group



Manipur - the land of the Loktak and the Sangai, which consist of different communities, was under British rule from 1891-1947AD. After Manipur was merged with the Indian Union on October 15, 1949 as a part C State after independence a small section of educated and modern middle class, which emerged in Manipur during colonial rule, assumed the leadership of the State. They like other ethnic groups of Northeast India however were unable to understand the socio-political complexity of new democratic polity after Independence.

When the British left India in 1947, Manipur once again regained its sovereignty only to be forcibly annexed by the Indian political leader and it created a sense of dissatisfaction in the minds of the Meiteis who have ample reason to believe that Budhichandra, the Maharaja of Manipur was made to sign the annexation treaty under duress, on September 21, 1949. This event is widely thought of as one of the principal reasons behind the insurgency upsurge in the Imphal valley.

Why the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958?

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act of 1958 (AFSPA) is one of the most draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament has passed during its sixty-four years of existence as an independent country. It is a modified version of an old British colonial Act imposed to control nationwide struggle by the Indian masses for independence.

It has certain provisions: - under section 4 of the AFSPA Act All security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operation, once an area is declared disturbed, even a commissioned officer, warrant officer, non commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces may, in a disturbed area, shoot, arrest, and search, all in the name of "aiding civil power."

The army can shoot to kill; the army can enter and search without a warrant, can destroy property and arrest anyone it chooses- without a warrant. Under section 5, any criminal caught should be handed over to the nearest police station with the "least possible delay". Under section 6 - no legal proceeding can be brought against any member of the armed forces under the AFSPA, without the permission of the central Government.

Common people affected due to the AFSPA

Life in Manipur is not secure due to the imposition of AFSPA. Due to the atrocities committed by the rude commandos, Paramilitary, army etc. the common people who work in the fields or do manual labour are the worst sufferers. Numerous innocent lives have been lost in addition to the large number of people who have disappeared without any trace. For example Y. Sanamacha, aged 15 years was allegedly picked up by army personnel in February 1998 and has gone missing since then.

Cases like the Malom massacre in which ten innocent civilians were killed by the security forces are the result of a sudden spurt in alleged fake encounter cases which has led to widespread unrest among the local population. Apunba Lup, a conglomeration of 32 organizations in Manipur, is spearheading the current stir, which has put the Government of India under tremendous pressure to repeal the AFSP Act. Leaders of Apunba Lup had met the Prime Minister in New Delhi and were assured that the Act would be reviewed.

Ineffective governance and its consequences

Manipuris are often misunderstood and humiliated by the people in other parts of India and unfortunately students, especially girls who visit the metros as well as other cities for educational purpose bear the brunt of this prejudice. This has played a big role in alienating the young generation of Manipur from the national mainstream.

Since the last eleven years, Irom Sharmila has been fasting for the repeal of AFSPA from Manipur, but no move has been made by the Centre to address the genuine grievances of the people by repealing this inhuman act. It has created an impression in the minds of the people that different yardsticks are adopted by the Centre in dealing with issues relating to the North East as compared to the States in the Indian mainland. This has made people to raise slogans like "Fight an armed miscreant with arms but let the innocent people live in peace".

Conclusion

Insurgency has to be put down with a firm hand within the provisions of law. One cannot tie the hands of the security forces and then ask them to fight armed militants. Any tendency to carry out blind operations against militants without specific intelligence/information should be avoided.

Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of people out of frustration for not being able to locate the real culprits should not be allowed to take place. Security forces should be very careful while operating in the Northeast and must not give any chance to the militants to exploit the sentiments of the people to their advantage.

All good actions of the force get nullified with one wrong action. Any person, including the supervisory staff, found guilty of violating law should be severely dealt with.

The law is not defective, but it is its implementation that has to be managed properly. The local people have to be convinced with proper planning and strategy.


* Romen Ningthoujam wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on January 10, 2011.



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