The National Alliance of People’s Movement has called for nationwide action from May 22 to August 18, 2011 in support of the demand for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial law which the Indian government still invokes 64 years after gaining Independence.
The following is a statement issued by NAPM in New Delhi on Tuesday in this connection:
On May 22, 1958 the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi, was re-promulgated through an ordinance initially in the Naga areas of Assam (later divided between four states) and later in Mizoram, then in parts of Manipur and later in all of Manipur. The ordinance, after a brief discussion in Parliament, was endorsed and got the status of Act on August 18, 1958, despite stiff resistance from various quarters who challenged it as a martial and draconian law.
Since then it has been in force in one part or the other of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Jammu and Kashmir (since 1991) -- even though continuation of the 'disturbed area' status under AFSPA in many parts of the country is illegal in view of violation of the mandatory six monthly periodic review directed by the Supreme Court in its 1997 judgment.
AFSPA continues to be the most potent repressive tool of the Indian state that empowers even a non-commissioned officer of the armed forces of the Union to kill on mere suspicion and provides him legal immunity from prosecution, thereby causing untold misery and agony to the peoples in the affected regions. The imposition of AFSPA is synonymous with heavy militarization leading to gross violations of civil and political rights including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention. All this together has meant severe economic, social and cultural cost including erosion of civil administration, lack of access to education, basic health care, destruction of properties and sources of livelihood, and environmental destruction and 'normal' functioning of democratic institutions in these areas.
The continued and selective use of AFSPA against communities who have been demanding self-determinations rights is a cause of worry in the context of the increasing militarization of the society in the subcontinent especially after 9/11 and the growing communalization of the polity in India as a whole and suppression of people's democratic rights in the name of national security.
This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. On the pretext of controlling insurgency, this Act has helped to intensify the insurgency in the region and legitimized thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and “disappearances” of innocent people in the Northeast and J & K. The democratic movements in the Northeast and J & K have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act and demilitarization for decades.
Continuing with our efforts for establishing democratic values in the society and in solidarity with the struggles of democratic movements of Northeast and J & K National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) calls upon the Government of India :
1. To repeal immediately
• The Armed Forces (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) Special Powers Act, 1958 (as amended in 1972), and
• The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990
2. To refrain from inserting any part of the Acts into any other legislation granting unbridled powers to the armed forces of the union or the State police.
3. Immediately work out and announce a phased, time-bound demilitarisation plan to withdraw the Army and other paramilitary forces from internal security duties in NE states and J & K.
It needs to be noted that AFSPA is not only opposed by the movement groups and the rights bodies but also by the Government’s own commissions and committees appointed to look into the matter. For example, the Committee to Review the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy in 2005, the Administrative Reforms Commission headed by Dr. Veerappa Moily in 2007 and several others have damned the use of AFSPA and demanded immediate measures for its withdrawal from civil areas.
Internationally, the UN bodies including the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and recently the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders have consistently urged its repeal. However, all these have gone to the deaf ears of the Government.
Along with the struggles of millions of people against the militarization and AFSPA, the fast by Irom Sharmila Chanu has crossed 10 years. She has been force-fed through her nose by the Government, arrested and charged with attempt to commit suicide, criminalized as a high security prisoner, denying her access to family, friends, supporters and the media. It is a shame that in this land of Gandhi, a non-violent protester has been subjected to such humiliation for more than ten years. Even as she continues her struggle along with many in the NE and J & K, we appeal to our comrades in human rights groups and people’s movements across the country to demand repeal of AFSPA along with other draconian laws like UAPA, MCOCA, CSPSA and others and resist the increasing militarization of democratic spaces.
You can join us by organizing
1. Public protests, dharnas, relay fasts in your area
2. Public meetings and seminars on AFSPA and Irom Sharmila demanding the repeal of AFSPA
3. Performances of the solo play `Le mashale’ on Irom Sharmila by Ojas S.V. Write to her email@example.com or call 020 - 24251404
4. Painting exhibitions on Irom Sharmila. The exhibition can be downloaded from: http://www.e-pao.net/epGallery.asp?id=1&src=AFSPA_Related/Neogene201102
5. Screening if films on AFSPA. Copies of the video films are available from: email: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone: 011-26517814
6. Public signature campaigns and sending them to the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, the Law Minster, the Home Minister and the National Human Rights Commission
7. Issuance of statements by well known writers, intellectuals, film personalities, theatre people, musicians and other artists
8. Any other form of action that you may find appropriate to strengthen democracy in this country
Medha Patkar, Sandeep Pandey, P Chennaiah, Gabriele Dietrich, Suniti S R, Sister Celia, Rajendra Ravi, Bhupendera Singh Rawat, Mukta Srivastava, Faisal Khan, Anand mazgaonkar, Madhuresh Kumar
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