MANIPUR WOMEN SPEAK OUT AGAINST AFSPA

Protesting AFSPA in Delhi

On the eve of Republic Day

MANIPUR WOMEN SPEAK OUT AGAINST AFSPA

Newsletter JAN - APR 2008

On July 15 2004, about a dozen women disrobed themselves in front of the (then) headquarters of the 17 Assam Rifles at the Kangla fort camp in lmphal, protesting against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA, 1958), under which the army had illegally arrested, raped, tortured and murdered Thangjam Manorama.

Thirty two mothers from Manipur, many of whom had been prominent in that historic protest came to Delhi under the banner of the Apunba Lup to stir up the Government of India and build pressure for the repeal of the Act. Many Delhi-based organisations, college groups and individuals joined the protest demonstration, and spoke of the widespread violations of human rights under draconian laws like the AFSPA. Speakers also addressed the larger ramifications of the State using and promulgating more and more such draconian laws - be it the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, 2005 or the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 2004, etc. The event received a fair amount of media attention, and even more by the police and intelligence agencies who swarmed the entire area with their video recorders, cameras and diaries - noting every person and recording every word spoken at the event! But finally the protestors managed to negotiate the right to walk in silent protest from Jantar Mantar to Bengali market where they were staying.

Here's an extract from the statement issued by them: “The AFSPA which grants armed forces personnel the power to shoot to kill on mere ‘suspicion’, stands in clear violation of the several Constitutional rights of the citizens of this country, and contravenes both Indian and International law standards. Moreover, the AFSPA is an emergency legislation that constitutionally requires to be reviewed every 6 months. That it should be continued to be imposed for years with only a nominal if any process at all, is unacceptable.

The impunity granted to army personnel under this Act denies citizens any possibility of justice or accountability of the armed forces. In addition, such total impunity has also allowed the use of extra judicial killings by state promoted renegade groups, like the SULFA in Assam and the Ikhwaanis in Kashmir.

India is proud of its claim as the world’s largest democracy, but in the face of widespread militarisation and the laws like the AFSPA in the North East and Jammu & Kashmir for nearly fifty years, such claims seem nothing more than a mockery of Constitutional and Universal Rights.

Friends, we need to speak up against such injustices today. We need to compel the government of India to respond to our demand for repeal of AFSPA. We need to stand up in support of all those waging a peaceful struggle against draconian laws like the AFSPA. Strengthen the Campaign against Militarisation, impunity, and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act."