January 21, 1972, Act 7 of 1972, March 14, 1972. Apart from the year, these three dates have one thing in common that is the Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Let me explain each particular date and its significances in details below.
January 21, 1972 – This is the day and year the Indian State of Manipur obtained its statehood under the Constitution of India. Before this, in 1826, Manipur was brought into India by the treaty of Yandavo by Raja Jai Singh with the British at the end of the Indo-Burmese war. This followed a dispute in accession to the throne. With the intervention of the British the dispute was settled. In 1891 Churachand was nominated the Raja and it came under British rule as a princely state. During World War II Imphal was occupied by the Japanese. After Indian independence Manipur became a Union Territory and subsequently achieved statehood in January 21, 1972. Even after obtaining statehood, the state is declared as a “disturbed areas” by the Indian Government conferring powers to armed forces under the Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1958. Since then, the state has been dominated more by the Armed Forces who called themselves “Friends of the Hill People”.
Act 7 of 1972 – The Armed Force Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was passed on September 11, 1958, by the Parliament of India giving Power to Armed Forces in what the act calls “disturbed areas” in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. It was later extended to Jammu and Kashmir as The Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 in July 1990. According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as “disturbed”, an officer of the armed forces has powers to:
“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.
It gives Army officer’s legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. For declaring an area as a ‘disturbed area’ there must be a grave situation of law and order on the basis of which Governor/Administrator can form opinion that an area is in such a disturbed or dangerous condition that use of Armed Forces in aid of civil power is necessary. By Act 7 of 1972, this power to declare areas as being disturbed was extended to the central government. Now, under this Act, these so called “Friends of the Hill People” have the full authority to exercise the powers given to them and they are exactly doing the same.
March 14, 1972 – On this auspicious or rather inauspicious day, Irom Sharmila Chanu, also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Menghoubi” (“the fair one”) was born. Looking at how she got involved into this topic. On November 2, 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, ten civilians were allegedly shot and killed by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state, while waiting at a bus stop. The incident later came to be known to activists as the “Malom Massacre”.The next day’s local newspapers published graphic pictures of the dead bodies, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner.
Sharmila, the 28-year-old daughter of a Grade IV veterinary worker, began to fast in protest of the killings, taking neither food nor water. Since 2 November 2000, she has been on hunger strike to demand that the Indian government repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), which she blames for violence in Manipur and other parts of India’s northeast. Having refused food and water for more than 500 weeks, she has been called “the world’s longest hunger striker.Now that is nothing to brag about, but in spite of fasting and protesting for the Act to be removed, her voice has been unheard and turn blind eyes to.
Aftermath of the Act
I vaguely remember, it was during 2004, a group of 4-5 CRPF Jawans forcefully entered our house without any prior notice and started checking and unearthing our furniture’s and stuffs at home. The reason they gave was, they suspect and saw an escaping militants towards our house. So they were exercising their Armed Force Rights and making an uninvited visits to peoples home in spite of the presence of women and children.
The Indian Army has tremendously used this act to rape, murder and kill innocent child and women without any mercy. Exploiting villages and people who are unaware and too frighten to fight for their rights. It has affected the civilians and innocent people depriving then from their rights, obligating them to live a terror stricken life and also divesting them of their freedom to live and grow in a peaceful and prospering environment and even taking their lives for the crime they did not commit.
If You ask me, I do not think there is any difference between Anna Hazare and Irom Sharmila except for the fact that one is fighting in mainland India, and the latter is fighting within her own state which the Government or the media are ignorant to.But, the reason for the protest is the same –human rights,transparency in a democratic country and realizations of a citizens duty and responsibility towards its country’s development and prosperity.The Fast is still going on, and a lot of protest is being held in cities like Delhi, Mumbai etc, but it does not take as much faster time for the Government to draft a new Lokpal Bill than to remove an already implemented 53 years old heinous Act.Is it the lack of awareness or campaign by the people??or is it the lack of publicity that the fasting and suffering of Sharmila is not being publicized frequently in the National Newspaper or being shown in the National Television News Channel which led to the issue being still unheard and considered not worth changing or removing the Act for?
I would like to request each of us as a responsible citizen to extend and join our hands to condemn this Act and Repeal for it to remove AFSPA from the so called “disturbed areas” so that we maintain our rights to equality and freedom of rights to humanity.
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