AFSPA: When will the North-East get freedom from the black law

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Writer: Binalakshmi Nepram
The British left India after ruling for 200 years, but soon after their departure, India imposed the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) on Northeast India on September 11, 1958. However, for the first time, AFSPA was implemented on 15 August 1942 by the British Viceroy Linlithgow under section 72 of the Government of India Act, 1935. Linlithgow is counted among the most conservative governor generals. The purpose of implementing this was to give special powers to some officers of the armed forces. Manipur and the North East have suffered a long series of rapes, arrests and torture due to this martial law. At least 20,000 people have died so far. Under this act, the armed forces get complete freedom to commit any crime.

Explained: What is the connection of AFSPA with Nagaland firing, know the history of this special act

4th and 5th December 2021 will be remembered as dark days in the history of Nagaland and Northeast. A failed counterinsurgency operation in Nagaland’s Mon district resulted in the tragic death of 14 people from the Konyak indigenous community. This incident shook the entire North East and the demand to repeal AFSPA again intensified. Two Chief Ministers belonging to allies of the ruling party at the Center have also demanded the repeal of AFSPA. Due to this, the Hornbill Festival of Nagaland came to a halt, the internet was shut down and a lockdown was imposed. Black flags were waved across the area and posters with the slogan Indian Army go back.

north east

This is not the first time that civilians have been killed in this manner. Mass murders have been taking place here since 1958. Many of us have homes around the places where such incidents happened. For example, I grew up in the same area where the Hiranoithong incident happened in Imphal. There in 1984, 14 civilians watching a volleyball match were shot dead by the CRPF. Notable among other such incidents are the Malom incident of Manipur in which 10 civilians were killed and the RIMS incident of 1995 in which nine civilians including a medical student were killed.

Why voice against AFSPA intensified in Nagaland, Meghalaya? chance to reconsider

The security forces have got a license to kill as the AFSPA has been in force for the last 63 years. India is the only country in the world that has an emergency martial law without any war. Manipur BJP had talked about abolishing AFSPA in its election manifesto of 2014, but it is silent now. Even though Nagaland and the central government have demanded an inquiry, the AFSPA protects every wrongdoing by the Indian security forces.

Keep in mind that the demand to abolish AFSPA is not against the armed forces nor is it any anti-national act. Armed forces are not meant to kill unarmed civilians. They are for border security. The demand to repeal AFSPA is the courage to ask the world’s largest democracy, India, to remain true to democratic values. If any assembly withdraws the tag of ‘Disturbed Areas Act’ then the army cannot function under AFSPA. The people of Nagaland and the Northeast will also have to think about this clearly while choosing their representatives.

In view of the experience so far of such incidents in the Northeast, it can be expected that the killings on Monday will not lead to the denial of justice by giving compensation, government jobs. Till date no security personnel involved in crimes like rape, torture and murder has been jailed in the North East.

The biggest measure of confidence building can be the abolition of AFSPA. AFSPA violates the Constitution of India as well as the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights and Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Removal of the Act will show that we are equal citizens in the country.

(The author is the Founder-Director of Manipur Women’s Gun Survivors Network)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.



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