Catapulting AFSPA in the limelight First time perhaps


This is perhaps the first time that the infamous Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has become the focal point in any election held in the State in the recent past and credit should be given to the Congress for this. And it is the AFSPA whip with which the Congress is trying to lash out at the BJP with the question, ‘BJP is in power at Imphal and New Delhi, so why no efforts are being made to repeal the said Act.’ To be sure the BJP had earlier sought to pass the ball to the Congress with Works Minister Th Biswajit reminding all that the 1528 alleged fake encounter cases being heard in the Supreme Court mostly date back to the time when the Congress was in power both at Imphal and New Delhi. The BJP has a point here and this is to be noted, but remember the Army Act is today in the limelight thanks to the manifesto of the Congress which clearly laid down that AFSPA will be amended if voted to power. This line of sloganeering is sure to catch the imagination of quite a large number of people in the North East and Kashmir where the said Act is in force. However the fact that the Army Act never came to the limelight in any of the earlier Lok Sabha elections is a point which will not be forgotten in a hurry. It was nowhere there in the 2004 Lok Sabha elections, not in 2009 and not in 2014 either. Is it a case of the Congress suddenly coming to sense that AFSPA has deeply alienated the people of the North East or is it a case of the oldest political party in the country wanting to address the gross human rights violation under the Army Act.
It will also not blow over the heads of the people of the region and Manipur in particular that while Irom Chanu Sharmila was on her marathonesque fast demanding the repeal of the said Act, it was the Congress which was in power for most of the time from 2000 till the time she broke her fast. Forget about repealing the Act or even amending it, there was nothing to suggest that the silent fast of Sharmila was even acknowledged or taken note of. It stands that the said Army Act was repealed from the Imphal Municipal Corporation after the bullet riddled and battered body of Th Manorama was found after she was picked up by Assam Rifles personnel but it is the Congress which need to explain what happened to the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee report. Then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh flew down to Imphal after the nude protest in front of Kangla and the days of street protests to announce the formation of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to study the demand raised to repeal AFSPA and that was the last that was heard. What happened after the report was submitted ? These are questions which obviously will be raised by all the discerning citizens of the land before they decide to cast their vote on April 18 and this is a poser which must have been raised before the Outer Parliamentary Constituency went to polls on April 11. However it stands that the Congress has focused on a key point and this is something which the BJP should not ignore, whichever party comes to form the Government after the polls.

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