TODAY -

Editorial of the week

Raging AFSPA Debate
Courtesy: The Sangai Express 10th October, 2006



Once again the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has come back to occupy prime space in the newspapers and haunt the collective psyche of the people and not without reason.

Irom Chanu Sharmila, the young, gutsy lady who has come to personify all that stands against the continued imposition of this Act has shifted base to Delhi from where she has been launching her fast unto death agitation.

Hers has been a long and at times lonely battle as she had to spend her time during the last six years at the security ward of the JN Hospital here, which is strictly off limits to most of the people.

The same story is being repeated at Delhi where the lady has been shifted to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, away from the public with only her brother allowed to visit her.

Much have been written and said about the Act and there have been debates galore. While the military establishment has more than made it clear that their men would not be able to function without the immunity granted by the Act, the people, especially human rights organisations and civil society organisations have been crying foul against the Act.

The last straw was of course the custodial death of Th Manorama whose bullet riddled body was recovered after she was picked up by Assam Rifles personnel from her own house, the previous evening, in 2004.

The street protests that followed and the nude protest staged by women folk in front of Kangla which housed the then 17 Assam Rifles and 9 Sector Assam Rifles are now history, but they are events which will continue to dictate and influence the future of Manipur, vis-a-vis AFSPA.

The public uproar in 2004 against the Act was pacified to a certain extent after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally flew down to Manipur to announce the constitution of the Jeevan Reddy Committee to study the provisions of the said Act and to submit its recommendations.

Numerous sittings were held and the opinion and idea of the people of the North East region were recorded. The military establishment was also given the opportunity to state their case.

After months of preparation, the Committee finally submitted its report, but true to the characteristics of New Delhi, nothing was said and the Congress led Government has been sleeping over the recommendations of the Reddy Committee.

Today with Sharmila now changing gear and shifting her agitation at Delhi, the Centre can no longer afford to look the other way and Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil while maintaining that the said Act cannot be repealed is understood to have assured human rights activists that the report of the Reddy Committee may be given to Sharmila.

However what Mr Patil should remember is the fact that what Sharmila wants is the repeal of the Act and not to have a look at the Reddy Committee's report.

As things stand today, the Hindu has already published the relevant section of the recommendation and as per the report filed by its Delhi correspondent, the Committee has recommended that the Act be repealed.

Logical arguments have been forwarded for the stand taken by the Committee. However it is clear that New Delhi is not in the mood to even consider the recommendations of the Committee.

Before Messrs Manmohan Singh and Shivraj Patil take any decision, they should ask themselves this question, "Has militancy been curbed since AFSPA was imposed in the entire State of Manipur in 1980 ?."

Another question that could well help Delhi come to a decision is the poser, "Is the imposition of the Act responsible for the allegations of numerous human rights abuses which have put a blot on the image of the security force ?"




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