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PUCL, August 2004
[Published in PUCL Bulletin, September 2004]

Repeal Armed Forces Special Power act

-- By Pushkar Raj and Mahipal Singh, PUCL-Delhi, 13 August 2004

The ongoing agitation in Manipur for the repeal of AFSPA, started in the wake of alleged torture, arrest, rape and killing of Manorama Devi by personnel of the 17th Assam Rifles, is gaining more and more support of the people of Manipur, notwithstanding the partial withdrawal of the Act by the state government.

Manorama Devi’s killing once again exemplifies how the unrestricted powers granted by the Act to the armed forces are misused with impunity. The UPA government which claims that it is in favour of the repeal of the Act, also wants to bring in another Act in its place whenever AFSPA is withdrawn and it is very much doubtful that the said Act will not be as draconian as the present one. The history of MISA, TADA, POTA and AFSPA is enough to prove that all of them have been blatantly misused by governments to gag opposition and by police and armed forces to torture, arrest and kill innocent people and to deprive people of their civil liberties against the spirit of fundamental rights as enumerated in the Constitution of India and Human Rights as enumerated under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948 by the UN and the two Covenants that followed it and to which the country is a signatory.

Besides, that the central government does not seem to be in a hurry to withdraw AFSPA from the North Eastern states, or even the Assam Rifles from Manipur, is clear from the statements of Union Home Minister, Sh. Shivraj Patil who said that there is no unanimity in the state on the question of withdrawal of the AFSPA, since “many say that this law should be continued,” as reported by the press, and also as per the statement of Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on August 10, 2004 that there was no move to withdraw Assam Rifles from Manipur and that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act would continue to be in vogue in the troubled state. The intentions of the central government are also clear from the fact that first it wants to bring in another Act in its place for which it proposes to bring a bill before Parliament in its monsoon session.

It is absurd to say that ‘many people’ from Manipur ‘suggest that this law should be continued’ as it would virtually mean that the Vice-Chancellor of Manipur University along with the faculty members who sat on a dharna in Imphal on August 10, the students, women, nurses are all waging a movement not against the removal of Assam Rifles personnel and AFSPA from the state but for continuing them there so that tortures, arrests, rapes and killings of innocent people continue there. That the personnel of the armed forces posted there treat the Commissions of Enquiry and the rule of law with contempt is clear from the fact that Col. Jagmohan Singh, Commandant of 17th Assam Rifles and the four other witnesses from the same force, who were to appear before the Upendra Commission enquiring into the death of Manorama did not think it necessary to appear before it. The unlimited powers and immunity from being prosecuted granted to them under the AFSPA has made personnel of these forces arrogant to the extent of becoming a law unto themselves.

In the light of the popular demand of the repeal of AFSPA and for the restoration of the human rights and civil liberties of the people of all the North-Eastern states where this act is in force, including Manipur, People’s Union for Civil Liberties ­ Delhi supports the peaceful movement of the people of Manipur and other North-Eastern states to secure their democratic rights and fundamental freedoms and demands that:-

  • The Central Government should give permission to the local police, as required under Section 7 of the AFSPA, to file a case against the alleged rapists and killers of Manorama Devi. Pending enquiry into the allegations by the enquiry commissions, Assam Rifles should be shifted from Manipur. The family of Manorama Devi should be adequately compensated.

  • Along with POTA, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act should also be repealed immediately and cases instituted under them and allegations of misuse should be enquired into by review committees within a specified period and innocent people should be provided relief and compensation by the government and those found guilty of misuse should be punished.

  • The government should build an atmosphere of confidence and talk to all concerned parties for a political and peaceful solution of the problems facing the North-Eastern states with an open mind, without any preconditions, within the framework of the Constitution of India and all such groups should also reciprocate

 

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