Time to unite against AFSPA
IFP Editorial: Under the shadow of AFSPA, the armed forces operate with impunity and get away with torture, rapes, killings and fake encounters as prosecution is a mirage.
Updated on 8 Dec 2021, 2:45 am
Representational Image (PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons)
It is quite interesting that none of the BJP chief ministers of the Northeast region, including Manipur Chief Minister N Biren Singh, had cared to condemn or pass a comment on brutal massacre of innocent villagers by Indian Army personnel in Nagaland’s Mon district, even as it had caused an uproar in Parliament in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah tried to explain it away as a case of mistaken identity. As many as 14 innocents were killed and 11 injured in a botched army operation conducted at Oting in Mon district of Nagaland late Saturday in three consecutive episodes, according to Amit Shah. While expressing regret and condolences over the incident, he has assured that the incident will be investigated at the highest level. As we said before, if the Indian army lying in wait for Naga insurgents to ambush cannot differentiate innocent villagers from armed insurgents, something is seriously wrong with the army establishment. Howsoever credible the intelligence inputs of movement of insurgents in the area may be, the army columns should have the patience and cool to check and verify whether it was actually armed insurgents or villagers returning after work before pulling the trigger. Now, it has become pertinent to question whether there had been any changes in the standard operating procedure (SOP) of the armed forces operating in areas of conflict situation or that the general principles of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturb Area Act are still in force.
Years of experience tell us that under the shadow of AFSPA, the armed forces operate with impunity and get away with torture, rapes, killings and fake encounters as prosecution is a mirage. Compared to other Northeastern states, Nagaland was most affected by the AFSPA regime where entire villages were razed to the ground. Yet, one has still to see a sustained movement for repeal of AFSPA in the Northeast except for the state of Manipur. On 15 July 2004, 12 Meira Paibi leaders had disrobed in front of the historic Kangla Fort in the heart of Imphal, the then headquarters of the Assam Rifles, carrying banners with messages painted in red. “Indian Army Rape Us”, read one. “Indian Army Take Our Flesh”, said another. The women were protesting against the brutal killing of Manorama Thangjam, a 32-year-old woman who had been picked up by Assam Rifles personnel in suspicious circumstances four days prior. Manorama’s bullet-riddled body with gunshot wounds to her private parts and thighs was found near a paddy field hours after she was taken away from her home. Semen stains reportedly found on her clothes in a forensic exam suggested she had been raped. A judicial commission set up to look into the case painted a scathing account of torture that Manorama allegedly suffered in her final hours. The anti-AFSPA movement ignited by the Manorama incident not only led to lifting of the Act from the Greater Imphal area which has seven assembly constituencies, but restoration of the Kangla Fort over to the state government by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Besides the peoples’ movement, the Iron Lady Irom Chanu Sharmila waged a lonely battle for repeal of AFSPA for several years. But generally, AFSPA has been out of the public radar for quite some time. Out of action out of mind, as they say, till the Friday night incident when Assam Rifles personnel in mufti killed a 29 year old father of four children in Kangpokpi district. In the aftermath, an enraged mob, including men and women of Twilang area, stormed the 44 AR outpost at Gelnel village and torched two vehicles of Assam Rifles. Now, the Mon incident has woken up the general public to the reality of living under AFSPA and CSOs are demanding its repeal. The time is ripe for all Northeast CSOs to get together and carry forward a sustained movement for its repeal.