Hegemon India and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 Assam and Manipur


Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958By- Dr. Abhizeet Asom

The Indian administration has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 Assam and Manipur by another six months to continue to subdue all aspects of the rebellion against India’s occupational presence in our region. As per reports, this time the so called Maghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh (Nan Zang, excluding Assam Himalayas) Provinces have also been included in conducting operations under the provisions of this Act.

Why do the security forces need this Act?

To say in few words, this Act gives carte blanche power to suppress and oppress, including rights to maim and even take a life with impunity.

Why not just Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act [AFSPA], but, Assam and Manipur had to be special tags on it?

‘Assam and Manipur’ as tags in naming of the Act is actually quite revealing. The then Naga Hills District of Assam was seen as a hostile territory since the declaration of Independence by the Naga Nation on 14 August 1948. In 1951, the Naga National Council conducted a free and fair plebiscite. Ninety Nine per cent Nagas voted for a Free Sovereign Naga Nation. The result of this plebiscite was brought to the notice of the UNO. The Nagas also boycotted the first general election of 1952. Later on, the boycott was extended to government schools and officials. The puppet Assam government of the day imposed the Assam Maintenance of Public Order (Autonomous District) Act in the Naga Hills in 1953 and intensified police action against the rebels to crush them. Failing to achieve desired results, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act of 1955 was enacted and then deployed the Assam Rifles in the Naga Hills providing a legal framework for the paramilitary forces and the armed state police to combat insurgency in the region. But the Assam Rifles and the state armed police could not contain the Naga rebellion and the rebel Naga Nationalist Council(NNC) formed a parallel government “The Federal Government of Nagaland” on March 22, 1956.

The Assam Disturbed Areas Act of 1955 was replaced by Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 Assam and Manipur and on September 11, 1958 it was applied to carry out Army Operations in this territory against the Hostile Nagas. After the deceitful annexation of the Independent Kingdom of Manipur in 1949, Indian rulers realized that to maintain the occupation, brutal forces have to be maintained. But, the process had to appear clean and democratic in the eyes of the world. The ARMED FORCES (SPECIAL POWERS) ORDINANCE enacted by the Imperial British India administration on 15 August 1942 with the sole aim of crushing the struggle to get rid of British Colonial administration under the leadership of British trained Lawyer Mohandas Karam Chand Gandhi, who asked for Swaraj’*Self Rule under the British Flag+ jumped out of the closet to ease the minds of the Indian rulers. With a bit of tweaking making this anti-people draconian Ordinance more potent, the Indian democracy’s hegemonic agenda was rolled out in earnest. In 1958, Naga Hills still being a district of Assam, technically Delhi had to name Assam in AFSPA, but, more importantly Zapo Fizo’s attempts to impress upon some of the influential people of Assam to join him in making whole of Assam independent before he exiled himself and the Indian leaders knowledge from the pages of Assam history that it was just matter of time that Assam will seek to restore her independence, influenced the wordings of the Act. In respect of Manipur, as the annexation was a filthy affair with intrigue and the signature of the then ruler of Manipur obtained under duress, Indian rulers used the opportunity to prepare ahead of time to crush Manipur rising up to be independent again.

As it happens that the mix-match of being a Republic and a Union, a huge army was raised (and being maintained) by India to hold the union together. Without the military power underpinning the Constitution, this artificial country would have most likely return to pre-Mughal configuration at no time. Obviously the army desired total immunity if available to deliver what is wanted of them. What could be better than something off the self‘. The British Parliament approved Ordinance of 1942 was just waiting for the Brown Sahibs of India and to be blessed by the Constitution of the land! If anyone would like to retort that this is a very biased observation and in reality the land has earned the accolade as the largest democracy of the world justly is the true face of India, I would invite the skeptic to look at the AFSPA and its subsequent progress viz amendments and subsequent application of the same on Punjab and Chandigarh and Jammu and Kashmir.

How draconian and vicious is the AFSPA? I could perhaps surmise by saying that, “At its worst it is a license to kill indiscriminately approved by the Indian Parliament.” The Act should be readily available to anyone interested to tease out the content and justify otherwise.

This Chair, of course needs to expose the colonial Indian administration in every way it can with sustentative supportive material to peel off the façade of a decent democracy India likes to project herself. If we look at some of the criticisms and observations on India, my stand point on the AFSPA is surely borne out.

First of all, it is none other than the United Nations’ views I would like readers to be aware of. On 31 March 2012, the UN asked India to revoke AFSPA saying it had the no place in Indian democracy. Christof Heyns, UN’s Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions said “During my visit to Kashmir, AFSPA was described to me as hated and draconian. It clearly violates International Law. A number of UN treaty bodies have pronounced it to be in violation of International Law as well. On the 50th Anniversary of the Act, Human Rights Watch, a much respected International Human Rights organization, published a report with the title, “Getting Away With Murder 50 Years of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act” which should open the eyes of anyone who cares to read the report.

As late as on 7 November 2013, Amnesty International re-iterated many a calls over the years to repeal this Act.

Even the Delhi based South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre writes, “This reasoning exemplifies the vicious cycle which has been instituted in the North East due to the AFSPA. The use of the AFSPA pushes the demand for more autonomy, giving the people of the North East more reason to want to secede from a state which enacts such powers and the agitation which ensues continues to justify the use of the AFSPA from the point of view of the Indian Government.”

Justice B P Jeevan Reddy commission in 2004 advocated amendments/replacement and even repealing of AFSPA in no uncertain way.

The three-member Justice Verma Committee report of January 2013 and Justice Verma’s own words in several interviews since the report till he passed away reverberated the conclusions of that critical judicial review on evil AFSPA.

The list does not end here.

However, I would pray the readers to let me conclude here by mentioning about Irome Chanu Sharmila’s struggle against the AFSPA for the last fourteen years. Sharmila with her exemplary resolve has fought this sole battle against Indian tyranny which is reflective of a slave owner inflicting brutalities on the slaves the person owns. I have nothing but admiration for her courage and tenacity. Unfortunately anti-Manipur forces are gearing up to destroy her is evident from her own revelations to an audio-visual media on 7 November 2013.

Despite all the antagonism and disapproval, why is India sticking out with the AFSPA, ignoring even the powerful United Nations? Is the power of AFSPA irreconcilable?

Actually another piece of Statue called National Security Act is quite adequate according to some analysts in preserving internal security of India.

Therefore, India being steadfast in keeping the AFSPA is to be able to maintain her colonial rule using the Armed forces leads to the only logical conclusion that despite all the talk about maintaining internal security, in her psyche India sees all the National Liberation struggles as adversaries as if outside her borders and needs to fight these wars as such using all means with the aim not to be defeated.

With this appreciation, I believe, even if under the pressure of world opinion India decides to repeal the AFSPA; a replacement Statue would be complementary to continue these wars covetously.

As for my organization, we are also equally determined not to be defeated, but to win and restore our stolen Sovereignty, with the rider that although in Indian psyche we are treated as anti-Indian vermin, that is not correct; we are Non-Indians and my organization is at war with India which was forced upon us on 27 November 1990.

The AFSPA no doubt makes India’s occupation easier to sanitize. This is the reason why the Indian Armed Forces hail the AFSPA.

Dr. Abhizeet Asom is the Chairman of United Liberation Front of Asom(Independent).

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