Draconian Indian military law AFSPA is withdrawn in Tripura!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff
Indians in many parts of India reel under special, oppressive military/powers given by central and state governments as free gifts. Unable to contain rising prices, poverty and corruption, the regime has first propelled agitational and extremist measures by the affected common people and then targeted the hapless populations and use all sorts of repressive tactics to silence them.
After 18 years in operation, the Tripura government in Northeast India has finally decided to withdraw the dreadful and controversial military law AFSPA that gives the army sweeping emergency powers in troubled areas. The law was imposed in Tripura in 1997 to tackle insurgency in the state, following a spurt of militant violence. But in recent years, the state has been largely peaceful. Insurgency activities in the state are now reduced almost at zero. The demand for withdrawing the AFSPA has been persuaded at various levels
The Tripura government on May 27 decided to lift the draconian Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from the state, where the controversial law was in effect for years to curb insurgency. Chief Minister Manik Sarkar, who is also the Home Minister of the state, said this decision was taken in the meeting of the council of ministers on during the day. The Act was promulgated in the state in February 16, 1997 due to relentless violence and bloodshed. As per the provisions of the Act, it was reviewed and extended in every six months since then. The last six-month extension was in November last year and its term ends this month-end.
The law was imposed in Tripura in 1997 to tackle insurgency in the state, following a spurt of militant violence. But in recent years, the state has been largely peaceful. “We have reviewed the situation of the disturbed areas of the state after every six months and also discussed the issue with the state police and other security forces working in the state. “They suggested that there is no requirement of the Act now as the insurgency problem has largely been contained. We would soon issue gazette notification in this regard,” Sarkar told reporters. This Act was imposed in the state on February 16, 1997 following spurt of violence by the ultras. Sarkar said that initially, AFSPA was promulgated across two-third of the total police station areas but gradually the coverage of the Act was reduced with the improving situation. At present AFSPA was in fully operational in 26 police stations areas and partially in four police station areas out of 74 police stations and 36 out posts of Tripura.
The special military law, which protects the forces from litigation and investigation for counter-terror operations, has been criticized as an excuse for army excesses; the army can shoot to kill, keeping suspects in custody without trial and make arrests without a warrant. “We have reviewed the situation of the disturbed areas of the state after every six months and also discussed the issue with the state police and other security forces working in the state. They suggested that there was no requirement of the Act now as the insurgency problem has largely been contained,” Sarkar told reporters.
The Act is accused of giving rise to large-scale human rights violations that include rape, extrajudicial killings and torture. The pressure is on successive central governments to completely withdraw this Act, which has outlived its purpose. Except Mizoram, the Act is applicable to whole of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur (barring Imphal municipal area), selected police station areas in Tripura, Tirap, Changlang and Londing districts of Arunachal Pradesh and 20 km inside Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya from the borders with Assam.
The law is in force in four other northeastern states and Jammu Kashmir where the military has been on rampage by using the dreaded law against Kashmiri Muslims they want to get rid of for freedom or any other reason, or even without any specific reasons. Just to kill Kashmiri Muslims because of the AFSPA law they derive sadistic pleasure by killing Muslims. Indian military has achieved a record killing of over 100,000 Kashmiri Muslims in Kashmiri valley alone. All appeals to UN to investigate the Indian state crimes in Kashmir have fallen, so far, on deaf ears of UN bosses.
The states can of course remove the law without consulting the Centre, but officials say , ground realities have been far more complicated in states like Jammu Kashmir and Manipur. In Manipur, activist Irom Sharmila has been on a fast since 2000 against AFSPA and alleged army atrocities, but the state government says it cannot afford to let go of army control. In Jammu and Kashmir, political parties across the spectrum want the law scrapped but the recommendation has never gone to the Centre, because the decision has to be taken by a unified command that includes the army.
The law is in force in four other northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir. The states can remove the law without consulting the Centre, say officials, but ground realities have been far more complicated in states like Jammu Kashmir and Manipur. In Manipur, activist Irom Sharmila has been on a fast since 2000 against AFSPA and alleged army atrocities, but the state government says it cannot afford to let go of army control. In Jammu and Kashmir, political parties across the spectrum want the law scrapped but the recommendation has never gone to the Centre, because the decision has to be taken by a unified command that includes the army.
Unlike situation in North Eastern India, Kashmir is considered to be vital for India, its military as Jammu Kashmir is being occupied by India, its military since 1947 Indian military has been ruthless with Kashmiri Muslims, while promoting Hindus. Kashmiris demand full sovereignty back from Indian yoke.
Several organizations in the region want the Act, which gives sweeping powers to the Army engaged in counter-insurgency operations, to shoot to kill and arrest without warrants and immunity from prosecution, to be withdrawn. Irom Sharmila of Manipur has been on fast against this Act for 14 years now.
The whole of northeast is looking forward to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to the region on May 30 with hopes that he will make an announcement on the fate of the controversial Armed Force (Special Powers) Act, 1958. But this subject does not figure on the agenda at the special meeting that Modi will be holding with NE chief ministers on the sidelines of the All India DGPs meet here on Sunday. The inter-state border dispute in the region has been identified as a major problem as even after the intervention of the Supreme Court, the matter is far from being resolved and several lives have been lost on either side.
On top of the agenda for the Modi coming for North East CMs meeting are two crucial issues — the inter-state boundary row between Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Nagaland and Assam and Meghalaya and the long-extended peace talks with militant outfits that are yet to bear any results, a source said. The AFSPA is not on the agenda, but Modi would definitely want an answer if someone among those attending the meeting raises the issue, a source said. Another source said, “Prime Minister Modi would be asking for a roadmap for solution to each of the problems plaguing the region. He would not be interested in simply discussing the problems and their genesis.”
Former union home minister and renowned economist, P Chidambaram welcomed the decision in a tweet this morning. “My plea to repeal #AFSPA heard in Tripura. AFSPA withdrawn. Victory for sanity and humanity,” he tweeted.
Military is supposed to protect people but, unfortunately, regimes have made it a state terror outfit to target those whom the government does not like or want. This phenomenon has assumed universal application by the corrupt governments. The Act has been in force in the militancy-ravaged Tripura state since 1997, where communists rule.
Tripura with its historic decision to do away with the controversial law Armed Forces Special Powers Act, that gives the army sweeping emergency powers in troubled areas to kill anybody it deems necessary, has indeed made an attempt, howsoever feeble it maybe, to enter a truly, humane, democratic world.
Hopefully other NE states as well as Jammu Kashmir would be free from the draconian military law imposed on them. Hopefully the state governments of these uncertain states would also take a bold decision to repeal the deadly Armed Forces Special Powers Act quickly enough!