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AFSPA – Kashmir, Manipur and a little discrimination

(an article by Parmita Borah)
On the 11th of September 1958, the Parliament of India passed an Act that conferred special powers upon armed forces in what was described as "Disturbed Areas". These "disturbed" areas primarily included the north eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. According to this Act, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), an officer had the legitimate power in any area declared as "disturbed", fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law against “assembly of five or more persons" or possession of deadly weapons. To arrest without a warrant and with the use of "necessary" force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so to enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.

In simpler terms, the folks that were hired for the defense of the nation were given ‘James Bond’ like powers – ‘License to Kill’. The Act was later extended to the conflicted Jammu and Kashmir. Although the Act was initiated with the intention of curbing armed insurgency or terrorism, the collateral damage has been anything but obvious. Soon, unarmed civilians began to bear the brunt of it with the surfacing of cases like harassments, abuse, rape and fake encounters.

The Act has been employed in the Indian administrated state of Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.The Kashmir Valley which has had a history of conflict witnessed ten thousand more troops were deployed in an already highly militarized region, curfews were imposed, and several protesters were killed (AP) by the security forces. Ever since it has been a saga of protests and violence in the scenic valley.In June 2010 alone, Kashmir witnessed more than 15 deaths all of them caused by Indian security forces firing upon the protesting crowds. These crowds were comprised largely of teenagers pelting stones at the security forces especially in and around areas of old Srinagar, the capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The list of the dead included minors, the youngest being just nine year old. The catastrophic cycle of death started when security forces, purportedly in self-defense, opened fire on these teenagers claiming that pelting of stones caused grave danger to their lives. The first death caused by the security forces led to large scale protests by the common citizenry when the security forces fired again killing more people and inciting more protests as a consequence. Violent protests and stone pelting continued until the Central Government was compelled to open it eyes and ears. By mid September, a little smoke rose in the air about the Cabinet Committee's Eid package.

In a similar saga, a journalist and social activist from the picturesque land of Manipur, Irom Chanu Sharmila, launched a peace campaign- fast unto death. It started with an ill fated day of November, 2000, when ten innocent people were gunned down at a bus station in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur A huge admirer of Mahatma Gandhi, she decided to follow the footsteps. The deceased included a 62 year old woman Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner. The incident which later came to be known as the "Malom Massacre" was driven by the Assam Rifles and the state was unable to investigate the issue or run an investigation on them, thanks to AFSPA.

Sharmila, an ardent admirer of Mahatma Gandhi took the high road and started her hunger strike in protest of these undemocratic atrocities launched on the 4th of November. She was shortly arrested by the police and charged with “attempt to commit suicide”.Despite her protests, she has been forced on nasal feeding. The single most determined objective of her protest then was the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from the state of Manipur. However, over the last nine years, she has extended the scope of her demand to all regions of India's north east where AFSPA has been imposed.

On October 6, 2006 she escaped her confinement in Manipur and reached Delhi. After paying a floral tribute to her idol Mahatma Gandhi, she headed for Jantar Mantar for a protest demonstration.She was charged again with suicidal attempts and it has been an annual ritual of charging and arresting her for the same charge since then;but apart from the withdrawal of AFSPA from certain constituencies (n spite of the Central government not favoring withdrawal of the act) nothing much has happened.
Despite facing severe criticism from organizations like Human Rights Watch and The South Asian Human Rights Documentation Centre, the AFSPA Act continues to reign full swing in the valley of Manipur.

The irony however arises from the very nature of these two protests. Here is a nation that won it's freedom struggle with Non-violence as it's weapon, here is a party that was formed based on Gandhian principles, but when it comes down seeking the attention of the “for the people” government run by the same political party, it was the pelting of stones that made a bigger noise and not the non-violent contest against the rulers of the state. Is there a valid excuse for such discrimination? Is it because of the age-old step motherly attitude towards North East India or the common man just needs to pick up and hurl the pen instead of writing with it?

Small Strokes by Subhadeep Bhattacharjee)

(Photograph taken from -

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  1. I feel, one of the immediate priority should be to review the way how the freedom allotted by the constitution is exercised by some of our intellectuals who are too keen to dance with the tune of band of Pak and China at the cost of anything. Another priority should be to dominate the cyber world, media (print and electronic) so that the new generation can be convinced that the level of freedom enjoyed by its citizen even can't be compared with other countries of this subcontinent and instead of dancing with others' tune, they need to play a great role by participating in the system in reform of its policies to make it more and more accountable to its citizen for socio-economic development of all the regions of the country. There is no question of presence of army with AFSPA in a peace and prosperous region / country.

    1. Miss Retard, What does that have to do with AFSPA?
      The issue here is that the freedom you are so trumpeting here about is being squashed by personnels of the armed force in NE. This is not about dancing to someone's tunes but about rights of people to live free of oppression. Understood? Ya samjhaon phir se!!

  2. North east have always been one of the most exotic places on this earth. However it is sad to say and know that people of NE are not have a normal live which they deserve to live. The government should now understand and react in a proper way to this matter. It is India and every person has a right to live their own life.But the politics and rules by the Indian government is ruining the things. Some stern action should be taken so that people of NE can live a peaceful life. It is a place where there are immense opportunities of development but the hindrances are causing the drawbacks. Young generation should now participate in the politics and reform the moment. Sometimes if you want to have a clean home, you have to clean it yourself.

  3. First USA Symposium on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila at Harvard University

  4. Report on the First USA Symposium on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila at Harvard University

  5. behero ko suna ne ke liye dhamake ki jaroorat hoti hai... perhaps a the time has come for another revolution... this time not with words..

    1. Any call for violence very rarely leads to a peaceful end. A peaceful end ALWAYS require "words" - a term that you seemingly despise - in the form of compromise.

      Besides, no internal insurrection - without direct and substantial external help - in a democratic country, regardless of how flawed it might be, has NEVER ever been successful - if success is defined as peaceful end. Of course it is far more easy to initiate an internal insurrection and to cause violence, to cause mayhem, to cause death and destruction. Such internal insurrection can accomplish only that - history has ALWAYS shown that.

  6. North East remains till date the step child of the has been used &thrown by various political parties as a Cavia porcellus as& when required.One wakes up to national news minus North east, you sing songs/ perform in several dance programmes/Roadies &unity knows no bounds!On the streets of the larger nation, North easterners draw second third look like we are just out of some museum!While Anna manages to get on soapboxes for his political/apolitical gain, when was it last we heard of Irom's struggle in the national media?

    North east is peaceful minus political aspirations.

  7. India needs to prioritize. Pseudo-intellectuals like you should be allowed to leave the country. In fact, you ought to be arrested for threatening national security.

    So, how much does LeT pay you?

  8. @Shivraj: Please examine the provisions of AFSPA before you vent your anger on the armed forces.
    You are being brainwashed to think you have no freedom. The only reason the army has been called in is because the local police force is hand-in-glove with insurgent outfits.
    Even basic police duties are performed by the Paramilitary because the police is too scared to do its job.

    And they don't like being there. If your government wasn't SO corrupt and inefficient, North-easterners would be proud indians.

    But, because the government in the seven sister states is so phenomenally corrupt, the funds allocated for the region never reach you people.

    Instead of being such a crab, try doing some research before you go out and vote like a maniac.


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