Newsletter May - Aug 2005


July 15, 2005, marked the first anniversary of the historic protest by women of the Meira Paibi in Manipur at the Kangla Fort in Imphal (then the headquarters of the Assam Rifles), against the killing, rape and torture of Thangjam Manorama.

In the year that has passed since, this protest grew into a nationwide campaign the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA), solidarity actions and demonstrations to demand its repeal.Compelled to take action, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh admitted that the "AFSPA is a draconian law" and set up a Committee to Review it. For months, the Committee held deliberations, heard testimonies and considered representations by a number of democratic rights', human rights', students' and women's organisations, prominent individuals and others  from across the country on the gross human rights violations meted out by the armed forces under the protection of the Act and its deep impact on civilian life. 

However, most of the efforts seem to have come to nought. According to reports in the media, the Committee has merely recommended that the "AFSPA should be repealed... but its provisions retained in Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and that its provisions should be applicable to entire country, North Eastern states should not be discriminated against. " (sic).

Firstly, bringing the provisions of the AFSPA into the (already debated) UAPA undermines the very recommendation of repealing the Act, except as a publicity stunt or eyewash. Then, extending it to theentire country (as opposed to 'discriminating against' the North-East) will only take its legacy further and in fact, empower the armed forces to continue to commit crimes against civilian populations withgreater immunity. Just as those guilty of the rape and murder of Manorama have not yet been brought to book, and no hope of justice is imminent, many others will continue to go scot free.

In Imphal, lrom Sharmila goes into her third year of hunger fast against the AFSPA. All over the country the campaign and the voices against it continue to grow. And yet, the government tries to smuggle it in under a different guise. So, on the occasion of the first anniversary of the Kangla Fort protest, a demonstration was called by Manipuri Student Association Delhi (MSAD), People's Union for DemocraticRights (PUDR), Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathana (PMS), All India Students Association (AISA), Forum for Democratic initiatives (FDI), Democratic Students Union (DSU) and others, declaring that, ‘The demand for repeal of AFSPA is not negotiable’, and demanding that the government:

(For more information/background on the campaign against AFSPA, representations to the Review Committee etc, see our newsletter Jan-April 2005).