By : Wahengbam Rorrkychand
The discussion on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act- 1958 has been going on for more than the last 5 (five) decades. Despite recommendations by various international bodies to repeal it, the Act is still enforcing in northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir.
Political activists and human rights defenders have been continuing various forms of protests for repeal of the draconian act to save democracy. The ‘draconian’ Act,was adapted from the Armed Forces Special Powers (Ordinance) that was imposed by the then British colonial ruler to suppress the Quit India Movement in 1942.
Even with its more than 50 years of existence, the Act- AFSPA, which empowers enormous powers to Indian army in “disturbed areas”, failed to redress armed conflicts in the states of northeastern and Jammu and Kashmir.
Imphal Times initiated a discussion with various stakeholders regarding the 50 years of AFSPA and insurgency movements.
“AFSPA targets the entire population, who are not originally Indian and merged to the Union post independence. The Act is not related with insurgency; as the British did to Indian during independence struggle it is a political and military scheme to suppress the separatist movements and to bring the these people into a single fold”, Seram Rojesh, political activist and researcher in Delhi University told this paper.
He also said that if the Act is to curb the insurgency movement than why not it had been imposed in Naxal affected areas.
While Mubasir Raji, a freelance journalist observed, “India is working hard to integrate both morally and culturally the northeastern part to mainland India. Any act or policy which antagonizes the people kills the very purpose of it. AFSPA is a draconian Act which does not have a place in any part of the world.”
About the recent spate of violence in Manipur, he added that the root cause of arm conflict is identity crisis and the cultural polarization. Acting in vengeance and discrimination towards the northeast will only create cleavages. Counter insurgency operations should not create a war like atmosphere while the Indian government is trying to bridge the huge historical and cultural gaps. The existing tendency to look things emotionally will not work for a good cause.
Jiten Ahongsangba, social worker also expressed similar opinion. “We are in conflict zone between two lethal powers; in this scenario people will be suffered. With AFSPA more anti Indian feeling will rise among the northeastern part of India. If the concern Ministry does not realize, one day India might be United States of India. It must be removed without delay. Everything will improve and prosperity when it repeal.”
Rajkumar Noni Bala, a PhD scholar in Delhi University said that we need to look at the history, why AFSPA was imposed and how it came into the present situation. Law and order imbalance due to poor government and insurgency has invited the AFSPA in the state.
“Some of us would be very disappointed to this but the truth is that we have made it so; still many of us are fighting against the Indian Government to repeal AFSPA from the state. But not anyone of us is even trying to request the insurgency organisation to stop their operation of killing people in the state,” she said.