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Manipur remains under yoke of AFSPA


A notification dated December 8, 2021 issued by the Special Secretary (Home) Government of Manipur says “that due to violent activities of various extremist/insurgent groups, the entire State of Manipur is in such a disturbed condition that the use of Armed Forces in aid of civil power is necessary.”

TFM Report

Though chief minister N Biren Singh has claimed that the state government has been mounting pressure on the Centre for removal of ‘Disturbed Area’ tag from Manipur, the Manipur government has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) for another one year.

State Home department’s notification dated December 8, 2021, stated the Governor of Manipur has given “ex-post facto approval to declare the entire State of Manipur excluding the Imphal Municipal Area as “Disturbed Area” for a period of 1(one) year with retrospective effect from December 1, 2021.”

The notification, a copy of which is with The Frontier Manipur, has put an end to speculation and confusion about AFSPA status in Manipur. The notification issued by Special Secretary (Home) Government of Manipur H Gyan Prakash maintianed “that due to violent activities of various extremist/insurgent groups, the entire State of Manipur is in such a disturbed condition that the use of Armed Forces in aid of civil power is necessary.”

The notification stated that the Governor of Manipur is of the opinion that the areas within the State of Manipur be declared as a “Disturbed Area” under the provisions of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, as amended from time to time.

The governor issued the notification exercising the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (Act No.28 of 1958).

In the aftermath of Oting massacre of at least 13 civilians, the north eastern region has witnessed a widespread protest demanding repeal of for repeal of AFSPA – an Act that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to arrest without warrants and even shoot to kill in certain situations in ‘disturbed areas’ – from Nagaland and other north-eastern states.

It may be noted the Manipur Human Rights Commission has observed that AFSPA is now an absolutely undemocratic and unjust law to be rooted out completely given India’s largest democracy in the world. The commission had given several grounds for the withdrawal of “disturbed area” status from the whole state of Manipur.

It observed that AFSPA is replete with rooms as found in its Section 4-6 for the misuse of the same by the members of the armed forces.

AFSPA does not define “disturbed area,” hence there is the possibility of the misuse of the Act by the executive government in the declaration of “disturbed area”, said the commission.

Stating that AFSPA is a legacy of the colonial draconian law namely, Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance 1942 (AFSPO), the commission said even in AFSPO the then colonel British Indian Government applied AFSPO on 15.08.1942 for certain limited period to contain Gandhiji’s movement as well as the entry of a large numbers of INA members led by Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. In AFSPO, only an army officer of the rank of a captain was empowered to take and resort to repressive action to the extent of causing death by shooting. On the other hand, post-independent Indian AFSPA has given the earlier powers of a captain even to a non-commissioned officer, including Havildar, said the commission.

Further the MHRC said AFSPA does not authorize armed forces to detain and interrogate persons arrested and detained under the Act. In support of its point, the commission has referred to the repeated judgment order of the Gauhati High Court. However, armed forces do always detain and interrogate detainees under this Act thereby causing deaths of a number of detainees under their custody. Deaths under their custody are therefore self-evident, it added.

The commission also said AFSPA tantamounts to sustaining gun culture for the solution of the problems facing modern/contemporary democratic India which should otherwise be solved democratically and through political dialogue. It is the generally accepted opinion of the intelligentsia that gun culture be replaced by political dialogue for the solution of all problems including insurgency problems. Hence, at this backdrop AFSPA has no role to play, it argued.

The commission also said AFSPA is a violation of the socio-economic and political equality adumbrated in the Preamble to the Constitution of India.

AFSPA is a violation of the right to life personal liberty which is held by the Supreme Court of India, the heart of the Constitution, it added.

The commission claimed that AFSPA also runs counter to the fundamental duties of the citizen and enjoined by Part IV-A of the Constitution of India.

It argued that AFSPA has become a barrier to northeastern youths particularly those of Manipur, to their coming to possible/feasible political solution of the alleged insurgency.

AFSPA being applied to the northeastern States particularly the state of Manipur is most probably to create difference between northeastern people and those of the other states of Indian union, it charged. Maintaining that AFSPA being unjust undemocratic and draconian law has been lifted from most of the northeastern states, including Tripura, it said Tripura has totally done away with the disturbed area status under AFSPA.

Directing AFSPA be repealed, the commission observed the state government being not the authority to repeal the Act, hence it should pursue the Central Government to repeal the Act. MHRC also cited the Justice BP Jeevan Reddy Committee, Justice JS Verma Committee, Justice Santosh Hegde Commission, amongst others to drive home its points.

The Reddy Committee opined that the Act, for whatever reason, has become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness. It is highly desirable and advisable to repeal this Act altogether. without, of course, losing sight of the overwhelming desire of an overwhelming majority of the region that the Army should remain (though the Act should go).

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