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Anti-corruption protestors – Don’t comment on Irom Sharmila if you don’t know AFSPA

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The following written is not for those people who have grown up watching and blind-believing Bollywood movies glorifying Indian Army. It is not for those who are not ready to believe that Indian Army is not next to God. It is not for those would think we all should be ever grateful to Indian Army because they are saving our lives all the time and we should therefore not question back their work & actions.

It is not for people who think that shouting Stop corruption makes you hip or more dignified than who says  save human lives. It is not for those who think he/she who cries “save us from the Indian Army” must always be a non-Indian.

A few examples and thoughts?

In an article titled Akhil Gogoi and Anna Hazare, will you dare to fast with Irom Sharmila published here in April 30, 2011, I had stated about the media bias in handling the two situations,- Anna Hazare who rose to instant fame in three days and Irom Sharmila, who has been largely ignored in spite of her decade long fast. Some of the wise critics, pioneering the Anna movement wrote back very strongly as they thought it was an insult to the anti-corruption movement!

Some wrote back and claimed AFSPA is necessary and that we should be grateful to Indian Army for protecting us all the time (else terrorists of North East would have killed us all). I wondered if they even know how many states are there in North East. At best they might have seen the movie Tango Charlie which portrayed Bodos to be merciless terrorists of Manipur (instead of one of most wonderful and cultured communities of the region).

Some stated that I was trying to divide the people and that people of North East keep fighting only as Assamese, Naga, Manipuri, etc and never as Indians. My question, – consider us as Indians then and stand against AFSPA. And about fighting for our own communities, does fighting as Assamese or Manipuri does not mean fighting for a better India also, or at least a better corner of India?

One even claimed that the writer is a Congress supporter! I am still trying to figure out why supporting Irom means speaking for Congress. Is it because the Congress rulers are keeping her alive with the food pipe forced through Irom’s nose?

If you have no idea why and for what Irom Sharmila is fighting for, the following might help you open your eyes.

For those who do not know – This is what Irom Sharmila is protesting against

Irom Sharmila is protesting against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), one of the most draconian legislations that the Indian Parliament has passed. It is implemented only in the North East States of India. Under this Act, all security forces are given unrestricted and unaccounted power to carry out their operations, once an area is declared disturbed. Even a non-commissioned officer is granted the right to shoot to kill or arrest anyone without a warrant based on mere suspicion. This inhuman law which dignifies the basic human rights has been long protested by the people of the region; however the long cries and protests have never succeeded in making the centre realize the need to consider citizens of the North East states as human beings who needed same rights as fellow countrymen.

It was first applied to the North Eastern states of Assam and Manipur and was amended to extend to all the seven states in the north- eastern region of India.

A few of the brutal points about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA):

Why AFSPA is draconian and unconstitutional

  • Section 3 of the AFSPA grants the power to declare an area disturbed to the Central Government and the Governor of the State, but does not describe the circumstances under which the authority would be justified in making such a declaration! This decision depends on the satisfaction level of the government and cannot be judicially challenged, even if the state government does not agree. In fact the fact that North Eastern states always had an ex-military general as its Governor proves the parallel colonialism style Government which the centre tried to maintain with the use of the AFSPA.
  • Under section 4, the army men are allowed to shoot to kill and the only requirement is the opinion of the army personnel! The army is also given the power to destroy property, arrest anyone and take to custody for as long as wanted. Needless to mention such powers have resulted in all the wrong results in the North East with the army accused of innumerable rapes, fake killings and tortures to thousands of innocent individuals.
  • Section 6 of the AFSPA provides the Army with absolute immunity for all atrocities committed under the AFSPA. A person wishing to file suit against a member of the armed forces for abuses must first seek the permission of the Central Government! This AFSPA suspends the Constitutional right to take legal action.

AFSPA violates all International law

The AFSPA, by its form and in its application, violates the:

  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The following sections of this declaration is violated by the AFSPA: 1 – Free and Equal Dignity and rights, 2 – Non- discrimination, 3 – Life, liberty, security of person, 5 – no torture, 7 – equality before the law, 8 – effective remedy, 9 – no arbitrary arrest, 17 – property.
  • The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ICCPR)
  • The Convention Against Torture, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials
  • The UN Body of Principles for Protection of All Persons Under any form of Detention
  • UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra- legal and summary executions.

 Why this injustice and inhuman attitude to North-East alone

A law similar to AFSPA was once used by the British Army in Northern Ireland when they  carried out arrests under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act or the Prevention of Terrorism (Temporary Provisions) Act. Under this law, the detainees were held for seven days without charge. However the European Court of Human Rights found this to be in violation of the Human Rights Covenant and had abolished this law.

In India, however the Delhi high court had found the AFSPA to be legal and constitutional when it was challenged. When India had presented its periodic report to the United Nations Human Rights committee in 1991, Members of the UN challenged the validity of the AFSPA, questioning how the AFSPA could be deemed constitutional under Indian law. The Attorney General of India is said to have only argued that the AFSPA is necessary to prevent the secession of the North Eastern states. This had made the stand of the Indian Government quite clear that it is not exactly concerned about safeguarding lives and interests of the people of this region but only to rule and exploit it.

Indian has recent rise in armed conflicts in all Maoist affected zones, where the magnitude of terror is found to be more than what it is in North East. However, Indian Government has neither deployed the army (Stating that Maoists are the citizens of India and Army should not fight their own citizens) nor declared the areas as disturbed to enact the AFSPA into those areas.

Anti-corruption crusaders – will you also stand for our (human) rights and feel the pain of North East

In a popular attempt, Team Anna, in their recent Media-glorified-fast has called upon and invited the Iron Lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila to join them in their fast. Probably they forgot that Irom is still in state custody and that she cannot come without being released or granted bail.

None of their supporters would have ever heard about the incident which had led Irom Sharmila to begin her decade long fast to repel the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The incident in which a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, 18-year old Sinam Chandramani and 8 others who were killed on 2nd November, 2002 by Indian Armed forces when they were waiting at a bus stop. Neither the public, nor the Indian State Machine (forget about the Indian Army) ever brought justice to the case.

Irom Sharmila continues her hunger strike for more than 10 years as Indian Army Officers, our savior and defenders wine and dine every day in their camps, probably mocking the attempts of a mere North Eastern woman to fight against the great Indian Army all by herself.

Team Anna and the opposition is of the opinion that this is like an emergency like situation in India. When Ramdev Baba’s Ramlila incident happened (lathicharge by police), it was compared to brutal Jallianwala bagh incident! In another writer Pranjit Sarmah’s words “The north easterns are living in an emergency like situation for last two decades, democracy has been killed here many times, and Jallianwala Bagh of British rule has happened countless times. Will the voice and pain of Irom Sharmila reach to those who have compared the incident of Ramlila Maidan with Jallianwala Bagh of British rule! Will they feel the pain of the people of this region who have become accustomed to seeing many Jallianwala Baghs every year”.

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Anti-corruption protestors – Don’t comment on Irom Sharmila if you don’t know AFSPA

By: Priyankan Goswami Read time: 8 min