Sharmila’s fast has been ignored because AFSPA affects only a part of the country? THINK AGAIN!

by Bimol Akoijam on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 at 00:43
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There are a couple of “reasons” that have been put forward as explanations as to why Sharmila’s struggle has been ignored…these “reasons”, which seem true at the first glance, are in fact misleading ideas and must be debunked. One taken for granted reason is: AFSPA only affects a small part of the country (as compared to “corruption” which affects the entire country), and hence Sharmila’s (unlike Hazare’s) struggle has been ignored.

Think again! And answer 10 questions for the truth!!!!

A crime is a crime whether it happens inside the "home" or "house" or the "backyard"!!!! And an abuser is an "abuser" irrespective of the place or people against whom the abuse has been committed!

The idea that AFSPA only affects a small part of the country is a “false consciousness” that allows the continuation of the atrocious ethos represented by this AFSPA. The fact is AFSPA does not affect only NE/Kashmir but it affects the entire country in a critical sense. How?

Answer: Deploying military in the “internal affairs” of the country and allowing surreptitious institutionalization of the military to have critical say in the “domestic” administrative affairs of the state is a serious threat — as serious, if not more than, corruption is — to the constitutional order of a Democratic Republic.

Take note of the symptoms of the militaristic subversion of a constitutional democratic order in this country due to this Act (e.g., the erosion of civil authority over the military):

There have been cases wherein civil authority was not allowed to carry out its duties (e.g., during the infamous Operation Blue Bird, 1987 in Manipur).

Question 1: Whether the military is supplementing (in-aid of) civil authority or supplanting the civil authority?

None other than the highest executive power under the democratic dispensation, the Prime Minister instituted Justice (Retd.) Jeevan Reddy Committee to look into the issue of AFSPA and the Committee recommended the repeal of the Act (so do some other official Committees such as one led by none other than the Vice President of the country). But reportedly, the Government of the largest Democracy has not been even able to place the report in parliament, leave alone implement the recommendation as reportedly the military objected to those recommendations!

Question 2: So who calls the shot in India, the civilian authority which has been democratically elected or the armed forces?

Pertaining to AFSPA, addressing the national media, Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee, Air Chief Marshal P V Naik, remarks, “A soldier fighting anywhere at the request of the government and not voluntarily must have legal protection” (5th October, 2010, Economic Times)!!!! The remark implicates a suggestion as if the military (armed forces) is an institution with its own authority that exists independent of the civilian regime. In the Indian democratic republican order, the civilian President is the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and it is only under the order or command, not “request”, of the civilian authority that the military ultimately functions. In fact, the armed forces cannot conduct its unique function (namely, conducting war) “voluntarily”. It is the civilian authority that declares war and only then the armed forces can follow and implement that decision. On the other hand, it is also the civilian authority which can only call in the armed forces “in aid of the civil administration” in case of emergency situation. Indeed, constitutionally and legally speaking, there is nothing that the armed forces can do “voluntarily”— independent of the civilian regime — if they are to conduct war or involve in the (internal) administrative matters of the state.

That such a statement can be made by a top military official and no one in general (the democrats, intellectuals, and civilian executive of the largest democracy) has taken offence to such remarks by a top military official speaks volumes on the place of militaristic ethos in this country.

Question 3: Is it that the democratic sensibility and imperatives of democratic institutions in country allow the military to not only call shots in the internal administrative matters but also say whatever they want, including those those that go against the democratic ethos of the country?

Supreme Court Judgment on AFSPA, which upheld the constitutionality of the Act as well as the Reddy Committee warned against the “prolonged” use of the military in internal matters saying such a deployment will have negative impacts on our polity and lives of the citizens for the military are not trained for internal duties but for fighting war and enemy.

Take note of this: The military has been deployed continuously under this Act since 1958, and the Supreme Court Judgment came in 1997 and that of Reddy Committee in 2005!!!!

Question 4: More than half a century of deployment of the military not qualified as “prolonged”?

If you think, AFSPA is required as there are secessionist armed rebellions that threaten the national integrity and security of the country, THINK AGAIN.

Supreme Court Judgment of 1997 on AFSPA categorically says: there is “no material on record” to show that the “disturbed” condition (without declaring the place as disturbed, AFSPA cannot operate) is due to “armed rebellion”!!!!

It even goes on to say that the “magnitude” of the disturbance does not constitute a threat to the security of nation as Article 352 of the Constitution envisages!!!!

Question 5: If the disturbed condition is not due to “armed rebellion” and if it does not constitute a serious threat to the national security, what AFSPA with power to “blow up” “shelters” or shoot to cause death, that too, including on the basis of suspicion, doing as a means of “maintaining law and order”?

Yogendra Yadav, a well known political analyst/psephologist and my former colleague at CSDS, remarks, “Both physically and mentally, people here are far away…There are definitely is a cultural and ethnic difference with people from the mainland…”! (No Hard and fast Rule, Hindu, 21/4/2011)

Question 6: Is this AFSPA only for those culturally and ethnically (read racially) different people?

But then remember India is a multi-ethnic/cultural/religious/linguistic etc. And Kerala is culturally different from Punjabis and as far as, if not more, than Manipur is to Delhi.

Question 7: Would one make such an observation about Kerala or any other place/people in this country?

Indeed, rather than asking the question, why “Manipuris are alienated”, it is time to “return the gaze” or deploy something like Feuerbach’s “transformative method” and ask on what and wherefore of “India” that “excludes” Manipur and the Northeast in general. I have been doing this for a long time now and it reveals more than what one would actually care to know about “India”!!!!

Question 8: Dalits or people in India’s Northeast, “Aryan” or “Dravidian”, who says “race” is not an issue in India?

Remember, nationalist Bankim Chandra Chatopadhyay talked about “Aryan Bengali”, “Non-Aryan Bengalis” and “Mixed Bengalis”.

It is for no reason that Gandhi to John Rawls talk about the “minority” and “least-advantage” as basis to determine fairness and justice of a system.

Ashis Nandy, well-known political psychologist, someone I had the fortune of working with, says, “Since Sharmila’s campaign has gone on for too long, the middle class and media have lost interest”! ((No Hard and fast Rule, Hindu, 21/4/2011)

Question 9: When was it that the “middle class and media” ever took interest in Sharmila’s campaign?

Finally, to return to the remark that I have made at the beginning,

Question 10: More imporatntly, if we are to say that a crime is not a crime as long as it is not committed at "home" (read "mainstreasm") and abuser is not an abuser as long as she or he doesn't abuse inside "home" (read "mainstreasm"), what constitues the "home" called "India", the Sovereign Socialist, Secular, Democratic Repulic?

The plain fact is, Sharmila’s fast lost out to Hazare’s fast because we have not asked these ten questions ever…

Hope one has the gut and honesty to confront these questions and have a genuine soul search for the truth, albeit post-modern sensibility!!!!

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