Editorial , The Sangai Express
August 20, 2014 

The Court of Sessions Judge, Imphal East has passed a landmark judgement today, the 19th of August 2014, and it would remain an outstanding milestone in the history of mankind’s struggle against controversial laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA which has its genesis in the British colonial era.

Irom Sharmila is one universal name which symbolizes common man’s struggle against repressive laws enacted by ruling elites even though she is known more about her crusade against the AFSPA.

For 14 long years, she has been fasting. The Sessions Court verdict says that Sharmila shows no intention of committing suicide either by way of continuous fasting or other means.

Thus first ingredient of the offence punishable under Section 309 IPC, i.e to commit suicide is lacking. The Court’s verdict reads, “The petitioner (Irom Sharmila) be released from custody, if not required in any other case”. This is a highly significant judgement fraught with many political and legal implications.

The Court which represents the country’s judiciary in the particular case, through its verdict, is directly or indirectly upholding Sharmila’s struggle as well as the mode of struggle.

The Court’s observation that Sharmila has no intention to commit suicide is without any doubt. But one question arises. Is the phrase ‘fast unto death’ not applicable or misplaced with regard to the Sharmila’s struggle? Sharmila has been fasting since 2000 with breaks of only 24 hours or so between one release order and next formal arrest.

Indeed she has been fasting for the last 14 years and yet she has no intention to commit suicide. This may sound paradoxical or ironical to casual observers. But the truth is, there is no inherent incompatibility in this observation.

The underlying message behind Sharmila’s unprecedented marathon fasting is that she is committed to battle against laws which in her view are repressive, more precisely AFSPA till the end. The Sessions Court has ordered for her release but there are many higher Courts and only time can tell how things would unfold.

Switching to Sharmila’s subject of struggle, one would say AFSPA is one factor which separates the North East region and Jammu &Kashmir from other parts of India apart from other divisive factors like topography, geographical location etc. These are natural barriers but AFSPA is an artificial one, that too a legacy of the colonial era.

No doubt, AFSPA is enforced only in areas declared ‘disturbed’. But what one finds hard to digest is New Delhi’s understanding of ‘disturbed’ area.

Whereas North East and JK have been declared ‘disturbed’ since many decades back, they could not see any disturbance in the Red Corridor where Maoists are virtually controlling swathes and swathes of territory. Very much has been talked about AFSPA and an intense debate is still going on.

Yet the Ministry of Home Affairs is in no urgency to review the infamous AFSPA. “At present there is no such proposal (for repealing AFSPA). If the situation so warrants that areas be declared as disturbed, the same is done. This is examined/assessed periodically”.

These were the exact words of Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju. Kiren Rijiju made this statement in the Lok Sabha on July 22 this year. It was often argued that impunity was given legal and political sanction or institutional support in Manipur with the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act 1958.

Apart from Sharmila, people of Manipur and Kashmir, demand for repeal of the Act emanated from all UN Treaty and Charter based bodies, Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee, Administrative Reform Commission and Ansari Report on J&K, etc.

Yet the Government of India still feels that AFSPA is essential for North East and Kashmir.

By restricting AFSPA only to these regions, the infamous Act has been imbued with sectarian and discriminatory colours as many observers commented while some others went to the extent of calling AFSPA racist.

Hopefully, the Sessions Court verdict may generate another round of debate and culminate with Irom Sharmila’s freedom, freedom from both AFSPA and nose feeding.


UNLF derides GoI's assurance
Source: The Sangai Express

Imphal, August 20 2014: Referring to the Government of India's submission to the Supreme Court that any security personnel found guilty for fake encounter would be dealt with sternly, the proscribed UNLF has lambasted the same assurance as some empty promises.

A statement issued by the outfit's director in-charge M Sak Hen alleged that the head of the incumbent Government Narendra Modi was involved in many cases of fake encounters in Gujarat between 2002 and 2007.It cited the cases of Isharat, Sorabudin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati.

The Chief of Army Staff Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag was involved in killing three Manipuris.

Given their track records, people of Manipur have nothing to expect from the Government of India led by the likes of Narendra Modi and Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag regarding delivery of justice to fake encounter cases.

Fake encounter, extrajudicial execution, enforced disappearance and AFSPA are all tools for subjugation of Manipuri people and they have been enduring the alien rule for the last 65 years since Manipur was allegedly annexed into the Indian Union.

To the people of Manipur, all these words like democracy, Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and Media (mainland) mean the same thing.

It has been more than 10/20 years since the Operation Blue Bird, Heirangoithong Killing, Tera Keithel Firing, RIMS Massacre, Tonsem Lamkhai Killing and Malom Massacre but no trial has been conducted and justice remains an illusion.

Even as different enquiry commissions including the Upendra Enquiry Committee which investigated into 27 different cases categorically stated that all these cases were fake encounters, none of the guilty security personnel has been punished till date rather they have been honoured with different awards and promotions.

Acting on a PIL filed by EEVFAM and Human Rights Alert to investigate into 1528 cases of extrajudicial killings committed by security forces, the Supreme Court constituted retired Justice Santosh Hegde Committee and it probed into six cases involving killing of seven persons.

The commission, after investigation, reported that all the six cases were fake encounters but the Government of India has been overlooking the same report.

As such, people of Manipur have nothing to expect from the alien rule.

Even as Irom Chanu Sharmila has been fasting for more than 13 years demanding repeal of AFSPA with the support of many human right groups, apart from Jeevan Reddy Committee's recommendation to repeal the Act, the Government of India has been paying little heed.

The Government of India has shown little concern even after more than 1500 civilians were killed in fake encounters, 24 women raped and 19 civilians were made victims of forced disappearance, asserted the outfit adding that this was a manifestation of the Government of India's racism and discriminatory policies.

"The only way to free ourselves from all these repressive measures, violation of civil and political rights is to wage massive and collective liberation movement", the outfit concluded.

More: Pradip Phanjoubam writes on AFSPA as India’s Democracy Test, 21 Aug 2014, Imphal Free Press

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