Friday, November 16, 2007




  • Why is it that nearly 40 million people in North East and Kashmir live under army rule?
  • Why is it that in some parts, this army rule has continued unabated for nearly 60 years?
  • How can a country which boasts itself as the largest democracy justify army rule and continue to suppress its citizens?

Friends, Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act is a law which gives the state just such a license: a license to kill with impunity, to shoot at sight anyone on mere suspicion, to occupy or destroy any building, to enter any home and to arrest anyone without a warrant. A license that is available to even a non commissioned army officer of the lowest rank. And to take such action the officer needs no permission from a superior and is not answerable to anyone. And it is not easy to prosecute the security forces for offences as the Act provides immunity to them. Wherever such absolute power exists, those empowered turn criminal. So, rapes, torture, custodial deaths, enforced disappearances or fake encounters happen and happen repeatedly, precisely because guilty officials know that the law protects them.

Beginning in 1958 when it was enacted, today the Act covers most of North East and Jammu and Kashmir. Both the enactment and its long duration have been justified on the grounds that the North East and Kashmir are disturbed areas and therefore need a strong law to tackle militancy and insurgency. But consider for a moment the following:

  • Should peoples’ aspiration be dealt with militarily? More importantly, should the Indian state, or for that matter, any democratic state, demand subjection and loyalty at the point of a gun? Occupational rule is never just or desirable. And this is precisely what AFSPA does. Today, as many as 11 lakh security personnel are deployed in North East and Kashmir.
  • Coercion and military might, can and does suppress people and the extensive use of the AFSPA is proof of this. Be it the Oinam massacre in the 80s, operation Rhino in the 90s, or the Patharibal massacre and rape and torture of Manorama in this decade, army rule is accompanied with a history of heinous offences which no government can justify.
  • Besides killing and torturing ordinary civilians in the name of militancy, the brutality with which the forces treat families of militants is reprehensible. This is what the security forces are currently doing in Assam, Manipur and Tripura.
  • But political aspirations and convictions are not determined by length of the gun or strength of bullet. If anything, long-term army deployment alienates people instead of convincing them. Continuous protests by the Kashmiri people over widespread crimes committed by the security forces and the lack of any justice to the people against these crimes is a fact that the rest of the nation cannot deny. Protests over Manorama’s rape and murder by the Maira Paibis and the long agitation in Manipur, equally, tell us that army rule is not acceptable.
  • When political solutions are sought, if unaccompanied with sincerity on the part of the government, the possibility of lasting peace recedes. The decade long ceasefire between the Indian government and the Naga people has not meant either withdrawal of AFSPA or reduction in deployment of forces. As a result, the armed forces, have entrenched themselves even more firmly within Naga society.

People have protested against this infamous and draconian Act. People have protested time and again. Irom Sharmila’s heroic resistance in the form of hunger fast since 2000 is very well known. But why haven’t successive governments paid heed to these protests? Simply, because no government has genuinely engaged with the question of people’s aspirations. Moreover, all governments believe in the rule of the strong state. Therefore, by leaving the need of opposing AFSPA to only those who are affected by it, we will aid the present government in believing that there’s nothing wrong in using this draconian law.

There is only one-way: a united protest by all against AFSPA – for its unconditional repeal.

Observe 19th November as nation wide protest against continuation of AFSPA.

Oppose military rule in Pakistan, Myanmar and Bangladesh

Support people’s struggles against military regimes

Manipur Students Association, Delhi (MSAD), Manab Adhikar Sangram Samiti (MASS), Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR), People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR)

Join protest dharna on 19th November against AFSPA outside Peary Lal Bhavan (ITO), New Delhi between 2 and 4 pm

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Irom Sharmila Video

Irom Sharmila is a young woman of Manipur who has been on a fast-to-death for nearly 7 years now. She has been demanding the removal of a brutal law from her land. Manipur is a north-east Indian state (bordering Myanmar), riven for decades by insurgency and armed separatist movements. The Government of India has attempted to control the situation militarily, granting drastic powers to the security forces. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act enforced in the region lets people be arrested, shot and even killed - on suspicion alone. But Sharmila is willing to stake everything -- even her life -- to restore justice and dignity to her people.