Eyeing votes with promise on AFSPA Review promise


This is perhaps the first time that a major political party has deemed it fit to include in their election manifesto that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act will be reviewed and that this has come from the Congress and not from any other political party is what makes it all that more interesting. Lok Sabha elections, 2019 is certainly getting more interesting. The need to review the said Army Act has long been felt especially in this part of the country where the Army is literally given the right to shoot even to the extent of causing death on mere suspicion. Remember the marathon hunger strike launched by Irom Chanu Sharmila after the Malom massacre of 2000 wherein a number of civilians were rounded up, lined up and shot dead in cold blood just because some unidentified armed persons had opened fire at a post of the Assam Rifles. Or remember the RIMS massacre when civilians including a medical student and many auto drivers were shot dead by CRPF personnel after they came under attack from some unidentified armed persons way back in 1995 ? Or remember Tonsen Lamkhai, Heirangoithong etc when unarmed civilians were picked out and made to face the fully armed security personnel and shot dead ? It was against the excesses of the security personnel that numerous voices have been raised against the Army Act with Sharmila launching her marathonesque fast. However all the voice of protest and the marathon hunger strike of Sharmila did not move the Centre and the Army Act continued as before. Other States in the North East will also have their own story to tell and it is against this background that the Congress has come out with its manifesto that the AFSPA will be reviewed.
When the Congress talks about the need to review AFSPA then one is immediately taken back to the days of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee back in 2004, which was constituted during the time of former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh of the Congress. It was after the bullet riddled and battered body of Th Manorama was found after she was picked up by some Assam Rifles personnel that the State erupted in protest. One can still recall the nude protest in front of Kangla which then housed the 17 Assam Rifles, to which the AR men who picked up Manorama belonged to. It was after days of protest that the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh personally flew down to the Imphal and announced the constitution of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to study whether AFSPA should be revoked or not. It was again during the days of street protest that the then Congress Government in Imphal under O Ibobi lifted the said Act from the seven Municipal Councils of Imphal. What happened to the recommendations of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee is best left to the political leaders of those days and the Army big wigs. At that point of time the Congress was the centre of it all and now coming with the promise that the Army Act will be reviewed if voted to power sounds like a desperate gamble to win the people over. How many takers will the promise of Congress find is anybody’s guess, but the fact that it has come just before the Lok Sabha polls will not go unnoticed.

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