Co-authored By Narayani Syal Anand.
On the 15 August, while the world's largest democracy celebrates its independence; while the tricolour adorns the Red Fort and stirring speeches are made from the pulpits, our brethren in the northeast corner of the country will have endured 57 years of servitude and systemic human rights abuse under the draconian AFSPA.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act was enforced on the "seven sisters" of the Northeast in September 1958. The Act provides totalitarian powers to the men in uniform: shoot to kill, arrest without warrant and enter any premises for search and seizure, to name a few. It gives them complete impunity -- no complaint can be registered against erring personnel without prior sanction of the Central government, which is rarely granted. Extra judicial killings and human rights violations are commonplace.
Four government commissions (including the Justice Verma Commission), have recommended repealing it. A High Level Committee on the Status of Women appointed by the UPA government in 2013, discussed its recommendations recently - calling for a repeal of AFSPA. These recommendations were brushed under the rug.
The common rhetoric surrounding AFSPA rests firmly on its importance as a security measure. Some have argued that the army is "powerless" without AFSPA. Why is it then, that an Act, which was intended for a year, went unchecked for over 57 years and still fails to secure peace? This blind faith in the absolute "necessity" of AFSPA, is a collective failure of the Indian people.
AFSPA has effectively painted every Manipuri as an insurgent -- liable to be shot dead upon "reasonable suspicion". Perhaps the most depressing part is the failure of the average Indian to understand that questioning unchecked violence is not an act of insurgency.
Amidst the bloodletting and state apathy, the deafening silence of one woman -- Irom Chanu Sharmila -- is a stark reminder of the courage and conviction of Manipur.
Irom Sharmila -- better known as "Mengoubi" (the fair one) or the Iron Lady of Manipur -- is on an indefinite fast in protest against AFSPA since 2000. A Gandhian by philosophy, she has spent more than a decade fasting for peace in Manipur. Her life constitutes of a ritual of being produced before a magistrate every 15 days, then being returned to a jail-hospital.
The secrecy surrounding her struggle is particularly curious. News about her trial makes for an inconspicuous snippet in newspapers every few months. The entire nation has been kept in the dark about her last trial outside Manipur, in Delhi. Once back in Manipur, she will remain a distant visage in the shadow of our long-neglected brethren in the North East.
The essence of an Independent Democratic Republic lies in the rights and freedom of its citizens in these far flung regions -- not in the mere territorial integrity of swathes of land which we like to call our own.
Let us support Manipur's Iron Lady Irom Sharmila at a peaceful gathering outside New Delhi Patiala Court on 11 August 2015 at 08:00 hrs.
This will be our last opportunity to show solidarity, after which Irom Sharmila will be confined to trials in Imphal, Manipur.
Court of the Metropolitan Magistrate H H Mr Justice Akash Jain,
Delhi Patiala Courts Complex,
348, Purana Quila Road,
Narayani Syal Anand is a journalism graduate & "adarsh liberal", who blogs and dreams of a better tomorrow.Suggest a correction