South Asians for Human Rights

Promoting Democracy, Upholding Human Rights

IMPHAL, October 1: The Save Democracy: Repeal Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 will organized a peaceful march demanding repeal of the AFSPA on October 2, starting from Jantar Mantar, Sansad Marg, New Delhi from 11:30am onwards, stated a statement of the organization.

It has stated that Gandhi, the father of the nation and the epitome of peace and non-violence taught the world a way of protest unheard of before in the history, a path of love and tolerance, that would gradually soften the heart of the perpetrator when adorned with a sense of rationale and informed logic.

However, it has maintained that 53 long years of struggle and tyranny inflicted by the oppressive political structures on the common people of the North-east region have lead to a sense of alienation and mistrust.

“AFSPA is almost equivalent to a state of undeclared war in these regions. The heavy presence of the armed forces who are empowered to detain or even shoot anyone on the basis of suspicion and that to with impunity has led to the rising incidents of fake encounters, murders, rapes, sexual harassment, kidnapping, mass graves etc etc. And thus consequences of act/law directly befall upon the common man who suffers brutally and is often caught as a victim in the dichotomy created by the state of the armed forces and the insurgents”.

It has further stated that civil society organizations, women activists from the Northeast and other parts of the country, scholars, students, concerned citizens of India are joining hands for a peaceful march to assess the call to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on October 2.

“AFSPA has been invoked for more than five decades and since been used throughout Northeast India. A variant of the law has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.AFSPA has entered its 53 years of implementation. Government panels, United Nations and hundreds of civil society organizations across India have called for its repeal, but the issue continues to remain deadlocked”.

Officials have long sought to justify the use of the law by citing the need for the armed forces to have extraordinary powers to combat armed insurgents. However, human rights abuses facilitated by the AFSPA have fed public anger and disillusionment with the Indian state, it further stated.

“AFSPA has been extended for yet another 6 months in Tripura, several people have died and more than 50 villages have been burnt down because of AFSPA. At the moment AFSPA is covering 50 police stations in Tripura which are all inhabitants by indigenous people. We the ‘Borok’ people of Tripura call upon the Govt. of India to repeal the AFSPA as the act is discriminating, it destroys and culture and life of people,” says Anthony Debbarma, Secretary, Borok People’s Human Rights Organisation, Agartala , Tripura, quoted the statement.

“If human dignity and the face of democracy are to be restored in India, AFSPA has to go,” says Neingulo Krome, former secretary general, Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights, Nagaland.

“AFSPA is deemed by many as draconian law that should not have remained in force for decades. It has now become an object of hate. It has been abused directly by soldiers, and has also created a climate of impunity and abuse that has emboldened other police and paramilitary to commit human rights violations with impunity”.

The Supreme Court already has issued guidelines to prevent human rights violations, but these are routinely ignored. Following widespread protests after the 2004 rape and murder of Manorama Devi in Manipur, the Indian government set up a five-member committee to review AFSPA. The committee submitted its report in June 2005, recommending the repeal of the act. In April 2007, a working group on Jammu and Kashmir appointed by the Prime Minister also recommended that the act be revoked. In the same year the second Administrative Reform Commission had recommended its repeal. However, the cabinet has not acted on the recommendations because of opposition from the armed forces, it further stated.

“All rights given to citizens under the Indian Constitution is destroyed under AFSPA”, states noted women activist Mrs Lourembam Nganbi from Manipur. “AFSPA is black law which should be erased from the face of the earth. Therefore women in Manipur have taken a decision that we shall not rest in peace till this is done. We call upon all to help us in this our legitimate effort so that peace comes back to Manipur, the Northeast and the rest of India”.