TODAY -

North East & obsession with AFSPA
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: April 17 2015 -



The term ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act’ or AFSPA in short is redundant, infamous, inhuman and most importantly terrifying in the so-called troubled regions of Kashmir and the North East.

The latest casualty is Arunachal Pradesh, another State of the North East.

Out of 19 districts, 12 districts which cover the State’s vast two-third have been declared ‘disturbed’ under the notorious Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 whose constitutionality has been questioned time and again by the United Nations.

Insurgent activities and violence are the two fundamental premises which determine whether a particular area should be categorised as ‘disturbed’ or not.

But the very concept of ‘disturbed’ is not something unambiguous, and we fear its fundamental concepts and understandings are twisted and even distorted to suit the State’s interest.

In another word, the State has been employing different yard sticks in different parts of the country for invoking the dreaded AFSPA which has its legacy to the (British) colonial period.

Lack of consistency and uniformity when it comes to giving sweeping powers to the military smack of racism and discrimination.

This is what is informed by the much softer subjective treatment of Naxalism, which former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh described as the biggest threat to the country’s sovereignty, as opposed to the free hand given to the military in Kashmir and North East.

This does not mean people of Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and other States affected by Naxal violence should suffer equally with the people of Manipur and Kashmir under AFSPA.

Our basic argument is why Kashmir and the North East can’t be spared from AFSPA if the same infamous Act is not necessary in tackling the country’s biggest threat (Naxal movement).

By restricting the infamous AFSPA to only Kashmir and the North East for a protracted period, the Indian State has drawn a sharp line of division between these two so-called troubled regions and the rest of the country where peace purportedly prevails.

It was often argued that impunity was given legal and political sanction or institutional support in Manipur with the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act 1958.

This argument assumes great significance if one juxtaposes it with the US diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks.

The leaked cables say, “The violations have been carried out under the cover of this very act (AFSPA). Governor SS Sidhu admitted to the American Consul General in Kolkata, Henry Jardine, that the Assam Rifles in particular are perpetrators of violations in Manipur which the very same cables described as a state that appeared more of a colony and less of an Indian state. However, Indian general election, 2014 recorded nearly 80% voters turnout in Manipur”.

It is a tragedy that the ever exasperating impacts of AFSPA never fail to register in the minds of Delhi mandarins and they have no qualms to bring more and more areas of the North East under the devastating and suffocating wings of AFSPA.

It is the respective State Governments which are directly dealing with law and order situation of their States but the top honchos of the Ministry of Home Affairs apparently thought they were more informed and came up with the grand idea of bringing 12 districts of Arunachal Pradesh under AFSPA without even consulting, nay informing the Government of Arunachal Pradesh as stated by Chief Minister Nabam Tuki.

AFSPA has been tested in Manipur for more than 30 years.

It’s time for serious introspection and analysis on the effectiveness of AFSPA as a strategy or machination for dealing with insurgency or militancy.

If the Manipur experience is any indication, imposition of AFSPA, we fear, would only lead to more violence and further complicate the ‘disturbed’ situation in Arunachal Pradesh.

Or is it a veiled message to Irom Sharmila that AFSPA is there to stay as long as the Indian State exists and that she is destined to be nose-fed for good?



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