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Repeal AFSPA from northeast India: rights groups
The northeastern states of India in general and Manipur in particular, have so far suffered a lot due to enforcement of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958. The social activist Iron Lady Irom Chanu Sharmila of Manipur has continued her indefinite hunger strike for more than twelve years, demanding repeal of this Act.

PEOPLE ACROSS the northeast have been protesting the draconian act for a long time now, but neither the Union government nor the various state governments have paid any attention so far except making some statements.

The act was imposed in the region with strategic reasons to counter the insurgencies, but is still imposed in spite of heavy protests by people in different states in the region, said North East Dialogue Forum Convener, Ranjan Baruah.

Addressing the mediapersons in Guwahati, the Conflict Widow Forum (CWF), Manipur member Sera Banu said that for the last fifty years the people of the northeastern region have been experiencing violent, internal as well as external, armed conflicts.

The imposition of AFSPA and its impunity has had a serious impact in the region in proliferating more and more political armed groups. Many women have witnessed their husbands, sons and brothers being killed in front of them in many fake encounters and counter insurgency operations.

In recent years, men - both civilians combatants – in the age group of 18 to 30 years were killed in the name of counter insurgency, which left behind many young widows and orphans. Moreover, the ongoing socio-political crisis in this region victimizes the civilians, especially women and children.

Above all, women faced big socio-economic impacts when they were left behind at the very young age with their little babies. They are facing a situation which they were never trained for. In the absence of any state policy or scheme, young widows of this ongoing armed conflict are used in illicit drug trade and small arms trafficking both by state and non-state actors.

While addressing the media, the three organizations – North East Dialogue Forum, Conflict Widow Forum and Women Action Development (WAD) – detailed various shocking incidents that took place during last four decades. They strongly condemned the rape and torture of 23-year-old medical student, Jyoti Pandey in Delhi and extended their solidarity to her and family. They also condemned the custodial rape of 14 tribal women of Ujanmaidan (Tripura) by Security Forces in 1988 and custodial killing of Thangjam Monorama on 11th July 2004. She was gang raped, brutally tortured and killed by Assam Rifles.

They further added that a 38-year-old woman from Kokrajhar district of BTAD was raped by Indian Army in April 2011 and two women from same district were also raped by SSB Jawans in the same year. No justice has been given to victims so far. Other factors that enhance the victimization of women and girls are social injustice, economic inequality, and discrimination in private places due to gender and patriarchal structures in all social institutions.

Since time immemorial women of the Northeast have organized themselves at the grass root level to promote peace and social development. Despite their role and contribution in all socio-political and economic aspects, they have been neglected, tortured, humiliated, targeted because of their sex and deprived of their rights. They are now struggling for their existence under the shadow of guns.

They said, so far 14 United Nations special Rapporteurs, recommended the Government of India to shun the grave human rights violations which are persisting in the region as a product of AFSPA and some of them seriously urged the Government of India to repeal AFSPA.

In the second cycle of Universal Period Review of the United Nations Human Rights Committee held in May-June 2012, 80 countries expressed their deep and serious concern over human rights violations related to AFSPA. The Committee urged India to repeal the AFSPA in its special communiqué to the Government of India many times, and the last letter was dated September 2, 2011.

In spite of strong movement from the people in Northeast in general and Manipur in particular and pressure from many countries in the world to repeal AFSPA, Government of India is yet to decide respecting the democratic voice of the people. UN Committee on Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), the committee formed by a body of experts on racial discrimination from different part of the world also said that AFSPA was racial.

These organizations appealed to the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of India and Government of Manipur to honor the proceeding of the Supreme Court of India in relation to AFSPA. They acknowledged and appreciated the great effort of Manipur and Assam governments for demobilization of arms in recent years. They urged the government to repeal AFSPA as per recommendations of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission 2005, Second Administrative Reform Commission of India 2007. The recommendations of such committees are the democratic voice of the people in the country. India should respect it and repeal AFSPA immediately, they said.

They urged to examine the imposition of AFSPA in Northeast India in the context that the act is allowing to create a space of state within the state. They also urged not to repeat the experience of the Supreme Court judgments on AFSPA in 1997 by developing Do’s and Don’ts after the case file by Naga  People’s Movement for Human Rights. India should not forget that people in Manipur want social, economic and political justice, they said.

They further urged the Union government to repeal AFSPA and start political dialogue with the armed political organizations for long term sustainable peace and political settlement in Manipur. They demanded the release of Irom Chanu Sharmila.

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