New Delhi, May 17 : May 22, 1958 Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial legacy used against Mahatma Gandhi, was promulgated initially in the Naga areas of Assam (later divided between 4 states) and later in Mizoram, initially in parts of Manipur and later in all of Manipur. The Ordinance after a brief discussion in the Parliament was endorsed and got the status of Act on August 18, 1958, despite stiff resistance from various quarters who challenged it as a martial and draconian law. Since then it has been in force in one part or the other of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir (since 1991). Even though continuation of the ‘disturbed area’ status under the AFSPA in many part of the country is illegal in view of the violation of the mandatory six monthly periodic review directed by Supreme Court in its 1997 Judgement.
AFSPA continues to be the most potent repressive tool of the Indian state that empowers even a non commissioned officer of the armed forces of union to kill on mere suspicion and provide legal immunity from prosecution, thereby causing untold misery and agony among the peoples of the affected regions. The imposition of AFSPA is synonymous to heavy militarisation in these states leading to gross civil and political rights violations including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention. All this together has meant severe economic, social and cultural cost including erosion of civil administration, lack of access to education, basic health care, destruction of properties and sources of livelihood, and environmental destruction and ‘normal’ functioning of democratic institutions in these areas.
The continued and selective use of AFSPA against communities who have been demanding self-determinations rights is a cause of worry in the context of the increasing militarization of the society in the sub-continent especially after 9/11 and the growing communalisation of the polity in India as a whole and suppression of people’s democratic rights in the name of national security.
This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. In the pretext of controlling insurgency, this Act has only intensified the insurgency in the region and legitimised thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and “disappearances” of innocent people in the North East and J&K. The democratic movements in the North East and J&K have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act and demilitarisation for decades.
Continuing with our efforts for establishing the democratic values in the society and in solidarity with the struggles of democratic movements of North East and J&K National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) calls upon the Government of India :
To repeal immediately :
The Armed Forces (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) Special Powers Act, 1958 (as amended in 1972), and
The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990
2. To refrain from inserting any part of the Acts into any other legislation granting unbridled powers to the armed forces of the union or the State police.
3. Immediately work out and announce a phased, time-bound demilitarisation plan to withdraw the Army and other para military forces from internal security duties in NE States and J&K.
It needs to be noted that AFSPA is not only opposed by the movement groups and the rights bodies but also by the Government’s own commissions and committees appointed to look into the matter. For example, the Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy in 2005, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Dr. Veerappan Moily in 2007 and several others have recommended damned the use of AFSPA and demanded immediate measures towards withdrawal from civil areas. Internationally, the UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the U N High Commissioner for Human Rights and recently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders have consistently urged for its repeal. However, all these have gone to the deaf ears of the Government.
Along with the struggles of millions of people against the militarisation and AFSPA, the hunger fast of Irom Sharmila Chanu has crossed 10 years. She has been force fed through her nose by the Government, arrested with charges for attempt to commit suicide, criminalised as a high security prisoner, denying her access to family, friends, supporters and the media. It is a shame that in this land of Gandhi, a non-violent protester has been subjected to such humiliation for more than ten years. Even as she continues her struggle along with many in the NE and J&K, we appeal to our comrades in human rights groups and people’s movements across the country to demand for repeal of AFSPA along with other draconian laws like UAPA, MCOCA, CSPSA and others and resist the increasing militarization of democratic spaces.
You can join us by organising :
Public protests, dharnas, relay hunger fasts in your area
Organise public meetings and seminars on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila demanding the repeal of AFSPA
Organise performances of the solo play `Le mashale’ on Irom Sharmila by Ojas S.V. Write to her email@example.com or call 020 – 24251404
Organise painting exhibitions on Irom Sharmila. The exhibition can be downloaded from: http://www.e-pao.net/
Organise film screening programmes on AFSPA. Copies of the video films are available from: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 011-26517814
Initiate public signature campaigns and send them to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Law Minster, the Home Minister and the National Human Rights Commission
Initiate statements by well known writers, intellectuals, film personalities, theatre people, musicians and other artists
Any other form of action that you may find appropriate to strengthen the democracy of this country
Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Gabriele Dietrich, Suniti S R, Sister Celia, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Mukta Srivastava, Faisal Khan, Anand mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar
For details contact or write to email@example.com | 9818905316
National Alliance of People’s Movements
National Office: Room No. 29-30, 1st floor, ‘A’ Wing, Haji Habib Bldg, Naigaon Cross Road, Dadar (E), Mumbai – 400 014;
6/6, Jangpura B, Mathura Road, New Delhi 110014
Phone : 011 26241167 / 24354737 Mobile : 09818905316