Friday, April 5, 2013

A Milestone Judgement against AFSPA!

The spotlight is back on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act with a milestone judgement from our judicial system!

Based on two PILs on fake encounter killings and withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur, the Supreme Court had commissioned a probe into the actual situation in the state. In January 2013, a three-member panel was set up to look into the incidents and for the first time in the history of AFSPA, a court-appointed panel has held security forces guilty of killing seven persons, including a 12-year-old boy in six fake encounters during 2009-10!!

The Hegde Panel as it is called, comprised of retired Justice Santosh Hegde of the SC, former CEC J M Lyngdoh and former Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar Singh, is the first official panel to endorse the charge of GROSS VIOLATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS by the security forces operating under the hated and reviled AFSPA. For those, who have never heard of the act before and do not know what it is about, here’s a brief summary:

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, comes into force as soon as the Govt. declares a state to be ‘Disturbed’ and gives blanket powers to the forces to ARREST anyone merely on suspicion without requiring a warrant; pick people up for questioning; put them in remand and use any kind of force even if it causes DEATH!!! 




There can be NO prosecution, suit or ANY legal proceeding whatsoever, against ANYONE acting under this Act. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review. Are we living in a democratic state or a dictatorship???
 
Not surprisingly, the honorable court observed that security forces have conducted raids and resorted to FIRING merely on the basis of source information WITHOUT bothering to cross-check the authenticity of the ‘source’. This implies, anyone could complain to the Army about another person (even if it is just for the sake of settling a personal score) and the forces, without authenticating the complaint, can barge into a person's home, pick them up for questioning, use all the force they want, kill one or two people in the process and STILL not come up with ANY ACTUAL information!

The report says that forces are allegedly responsible for 1,528 extra-judicial killings in the past 30 years! Anyone with common sense would understand what our high ranking officials in the army and the government don’t and what was surmised for them by the justice bench, “This is not the best way to integrate (north-eastern) people. It is the best way to alienate them!”(Courtesy TOI Report).





Shocked by the report, the Justices reviewing the petition, Aftab Alam and Ranajana Desai, said the forces and police threw caution to the wind while following guidelines in conducting such “operations” and put a major portion of the blame on the Union government. They also observed, that elaborate guidelines laid down by Supreme Court, guidelines issued by Army headquarters, NHRC and Manipur government have all been confined to the papers. NOTHING is followed in practice by armed forces and police while carrying out the operations!!

This just goes to demonstrate what we have been saying all along, All is NOT Well with the security forces in troubled states. On 31 March 2012, the United Nations itself had asked India to revoke AFSPA saying that such a law had no place in a democracy!


 Protests against the AFSPA in Manipur and Delhi



Many human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and the Human Rights Watch (HRW) have condemned human rights abuses in Kashmir and North-East by forces in the form of ‘extra-judicial executions’, so called ‘disappearances’, and torture using electrocution, beatings and sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees! {Check the post The Kashmir Conundrum for the situation in Kashmir}.

Irom Sharmila, a civil rights activist, political activist, and poet from Manipur, has been on a hunger strike since 2 November 2000 (!!) to demand that the Indian government repeal the AFSPA which has devastated her state. 

She has been christened the ‘World's longest hunger striker’ and is currently under trial for attempted suicide under ANOTHER outdated and draconian law!! She has been forcefully fed through a naso-gastric tube for thirteen years as the state does not want her to die and unfortunately, does not want to do anything to resolve the issue as well!
 




In 2004, tired of the repeatd abuse and rapes, Manipuri women took out a NUDE PROTEST to condemn the alleged rape and custodial death of 32-year-old woman Thangjam Manorama by Assam Rifles personnel. Compare it with the media coverage that Delhi Rape case got, and you'll realize we don't have the slightest clue about the condition of women in Manipur!

The movement, spearheaded by 32 social organizations became violent after a student leader Pebam Chittaranjan immolated himself on the Independence Day in 2004. Pebam left a suicide note before putting himself to fire, which said: "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." He ran for about 100 metres with his body in flames before falling to the ground in Bishenpur Bazaar!!
 

Manipuri women protest against Indian Army 


What shocks you more.. the desperation of these people, or that you haven’t heard any of this ever before?? The only memory of Manipur you might have is the name of Mary Kom, who won the bronze medal for India in 2012 Olympics. Yet, what we do not know is the harsh conditions she has faced to be where she is today!!

Taking into account the state's geographical location, Manipur can actually serve as the perfect Gateway to South-East Asia! A Trans-Asian Railway Network (TARN) which was proposed ages ago, if constructed, could connect India through Manipur to Burma, Thailand, Malaysia and even Singapore and ensure development and prosperity throughout its route!

Instead, we are involved in a vicious cycle of subjugation and retaliation of our own citizens! It is hard to visualize the army and forces as anything short of heroes as they are people from our own families/friends/acquaintances whom we have known for ages. But, what is important to remember is that in such extreme conditions, away from their families for long, abused and subjugated by the superiors, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, having the unlimited powers that AFSPA provides, these same people have been raping/kidnapping/extorting/beating up and (as the court declared above), murdering people in cold blood! 




It may not be prudent to COMPLETELY revoke the Act given that there definitely is a resurgence issue in Manipur but there is a dire need to revise it and add some accountability to the people enjoying immense powers under it! 

To be fair, not everyone abuses the power, but those who DO NOT stop their colleagues from doing so, are equally responsible and so is the media that does not bring this issue out in the open! Should we just sit and watch what’s happening till the same situation happens in our own state or city? Shouldn't the law be the same for every citizen including the Army and the Police?

The court has sought responses from the Centre, the Manipur government and the National Human Rights Commission within five days. Till then, let’s do OUR bit to stop this injustice on citizens of our OWN country by those who have more power than us and DO NOT hesitate to misuse it!! 



Spread the word and make people aware of the realities our fellow citizens are facing
Jai Hind!




Skeptics please check out the following links as an eye-opener:  


MANIPUR ON FIRE". Frontline. September 2004



 

21 comments:

Sheikh Shoaib said...

It's a good development.. Hope good sense prevails upon those who matter

Sonu Sekharan said...

This is highly distressing.. its like a book by Anirban Bose... the book gives a bare thoughts on how people from north east are alienated base upon their features.....the protoganist and their friends go to visit their deceased manipur friend in north east and are horrified to see the naked reality......they also come to know that they need special papers from army to visit, even tbey are "indians"....

Vineet Aggarwal said...

Yes Shoaib.. @Sonu It's such a sad state of affairs that we do not even know whts happening in one part of our own country!

Dev Madaan said...

shocking!!!

Dorje Baba said...

must hang the culprits

Sajad Magray said...

The rest of India is watching a fire in neighbourhood ie other states..they dont bother...but the day is not far when the fire may reach their apartments as well if not noticed!!!!!!!!!!!
Good work...letting people know whats happening in rest of India. Manipur and many parts of country like J&K face the same wrath from Security forces. The people are shown that it is a combat against terrorism but the reality is something different. Like Manipur we too have suffered many physical and mental casualities like Kunan-Poshpora Rape, Pathribal Fake encounter, Machil fake encounter......and the list goes on..........

Vlakshmanan Ram said...

We should Dissmiss people like that..They are Not Eligible for Indian Army...

Shivani Pathare said...

Finally our government responds to the situation that should have been addressed years ago. I hope justice will be given to the innocents who were murdered, tortured, and raped. And the misuse if power and the kangaroo courts will be stopped. This will open the eyes of the people that the "combat against terrorism" is only a mask used by the army to cover these egregious atrocities. Many a times the people killed by the army are declared as terrorists which spoils their family's name and reputation. Hope this will clear all those names and swift justice will be delivered. Setting up an committee and arresting tje officials are two different things. Hope they get justice.

Vinod Kumar said...

It is very shameful for a country with such deep roots in tolerance and shakti worship, even our heroes can overstep their limits.

Vineet Aggarwal said...

Yes Vinod.. tht's the point to remember.. no one can be and no one should be ABOVE the Law..

Abdulhameed AL-hadhrami said...

It is very painful,must punished and action to be taken against them.

Rahul Kashyap said...

AFSPA is the most outrageous and draconian law ever drafted. They say it was drafted to be implemented in a "disturbed" area. But apparently, its after the implementation of this Act that the states have been more "disturbed". The people of manipur as it is feel isolated from the rest of the country and on top of that this AFSPA. Infinite debates, discussions have taken place to repeal the AFSPA but to no use.The atrocities continues. Finally the judiciary has woken up and taken a step forward in the interests of the people of manipur. I sincerely hope the committee does its work with utmost sincerity and not falling to prey any sort of politics to ensure justice is rightly served to the people who have suffered beyond imagination for so many years. I appreciate the initiative taken!!!

Kavita Chaudhary said...

what will happen if we[female] decide not to give birth to male child.

Jayati said...

Sad..its such a bleak situation

Vineet Aggarwal said...

@Jayati yes the courts are the only hope for people in these states!! The government does not accept their claims, army itself is subjugating them.. If courts also don't help we will have no one but ourselves to blame tomorrow if they start an armed struggle all over again!

Ayush Parashar said...

i read this article and seriously thinking that why EVEN MEDIA is not giving attention to it? is our 4TH STATE also corrupted or else wat could be the good reason for mdia ignoring such a excruciatingly BURNING ISSUE.

Vineet Aggarwal said...

All media houses have connections with political parties buddy.. They show only stories that'd be good for TRPs not for unsettling the govt!

Ayush Parashar said...

yeah u r right. but after this wide delhi gang rape coverage, i thought that media might be pro-active towards other major issues of concern as well. But how can i forget that delhi gang rape was covered with great enthusisasm by media, because that was delhi. so the news will get most of the attention and hence most trps. while no body is concerned about north-east, so there is no money in covering their news.

Ashutosh Shrivastava said...

I can understand the problems of manipur. but i hereby want to request that please raise your voice in hindi also so that this movement may get more support

Vineet Aggarwal said...

Ashutosh ji the article posted above can actually be translated into any language.. There's an option on the right side panel to do that

Surendra Mohan Sharma said...

Justice must not only be done but also to let everyone see that it has been 'done'.