An Open letter to Prime Minister of India and Members of Parliament in India on AFSPA
September 7, 2010
Greetings from PVCHR and Wide Angel
we are happy to know that the Government of India is considering amendments to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The media reports about your active engagement with the main opposition party for consensus building in this regard. We consider it as a positive development.
The Government of India in response to the face an extra ordinary situation placed the entire state of Manipur under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958, (AFSPA) way back in 1980. At present, according to security analysts, there are around 44 underground groups operating across the state representing different religious and cultural identities. The civilian security personnel ratio according to a 2009 report is 40: 1, an indicator of a state in emergency. The security responses to the political crisis were unwarranted. Such measures have never worked in any part of the world. Regular election might give an impression of the presence of a legitimate government. But where is governance? The ‘responsibility to rule’ has shifted from a civilian government had tilted the balance of from a civilian government to man in uniform. Armed with extraordinary power, the security agencies engaged in fake killing, custodial killing, rape, and other forms of human rights violations with impunity. The claim of foreign hand in perpetuating the crisis continues to hunt the government. Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh himself admits, “Over 12,000 security personnel and insurgents, and 8000 innocent people have lost their lives till date. People are insecure, angry, feel cheated and humiliated.
It is necessary to understand the people of the state. How many times the Prime Minister of this country or the Leader of the Opposition leader in the parliament visited in the beleaguered state? Committees have been set up to look into the human rights violations undeniable under the constant pressures by the human rights groups from the state, as well as those working at the in the national and international level. Where are the reports? Justice B. P. Jeeven Reddy Commission, deputed to study and report to the Government of India about the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 submitted its findings way back in 2005. The Prime Minister of India responded by stating in a press conference that the law will be withdrawn as early as possible. Since then nothing is heard about the governments’ plan to withdraw the law. Such open ended answers reflect the casualness of the government and hurt people.
The entire state and people in the rest of the country forget the brutal killing of Manorama Thangjam, 32, by the men of Assam Rifles in July, 2004 and the following public outcry? How can the world forget grief-stricken angry women stripped naked in front of the Kangla Fort (headquarters of the Assam Rifles), demanding justice. Those are the shameful moments for each of us. The government unfortunately measures people’s opinion through the reports filed by the security agencies. There is a clear disconnect between the centre and the people of the state on what form ‘reason’. The state does not figure in the priority list of the government as well as the political parties due its low ‘political premium’.
When the world recognizes and shows solidarity with the non violent protest of Irom Sharmila, that entered into the 7th year for demanding establishment of rule of law and repeal of AFSPA entirely from the state, the political system both in Delhi and Manipur get into the brass task toundermine the strength of non violence through their silence and ignorance. Her’s is the longest protest for a social cause by any single individual anywhere in the world. Reacting to her hunger strike, and the public support across the globe, the frustrated Mr. Okram Ibobi Singh, the Chief Minister told in the Manipur State Assembly that the state government had to spend around Rs 147,000 in two years to keep Sharmila ‘alive’. We are sure; the Britishers never said such thing against Gandhiji. Neither the security agencies, nor the political class have learned the meaning and experience of non violence, except using it as a debit card.
Our organisations’ initiative for establishing ‘Testimonial Therapy’ has helped in empowering victims of torture and their psychological rehabilitation. While advocating for ‘Right to Rehabilitation’ of the victim, we stand solidly behind the rational and democratic demands of the people. Working with the victims and meeting cross section of the people of the state including Ms Sharmila, Co-awardees of Gwangju Human Rights Award, we had the realization of the deepening frustration of the people against the main land Indians. The centre might claim, but the state does not function. Systemic failure is complete. The government both at the state and at the centre aptly replicates the three monkeys of Gandhiji for all wrong reasons.
PVCHR and wide angle therefore requests you to:
1) Encourage the Government of India to immediately withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958;
2) Suggest the government to constitute an independent agency to investigate and prosecute cases of human rights violations committed by the state agencies in Manipur;
3) Recommend the government to implement the recommendations made by the Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy Commission submitted to the government in 2005;
4) Urge the government to simultaneously find a political solution to the problems affecting rule of law in Manipur though a process of interactive dialogue with the people and their leaders, thereby creating an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Necessary to believe that absence of violence does not mean absence of conflict.
With warm regards,
Dr. Lenin Raghuvanshi, Executive Director, PVCHR, Varanasi
Mr Montu Ahanthem, Secretary, Wide Angle, Manipur