Of AFSPA, Manipur and NE States
There was a time , not too recent in the past, when the whole of Manipur (read women, Sharmila in particular, remember her?) rose up in arms against Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA) 1958 following Malom massacre (November 2, 2000) and the brutal murder of Manorama(July 11, 2004). The most inhuman manner in which Manorama was raped and killed lands the Manipuri Women 's movement in a terrible state of angst and anguish and agony, shock and provocation. Then emerged, on July 15 2004, four days after , the most radical, sans violence, form of women's movement, hitherto unseen, unheard of elsewhere in the world. Who could ever forget the Twelve Women's 'Naked Protest' staged in front of the Western Gate of the then Assam Rifles (now Kangla Gate) . What the women shouted ("Indian Army, Take Our Flesh", "Indian Army, Rape Us") still rings fresh in the air.
If there ever was/is any place, country in the world where human rights of its own people are repeatedly violated, women and children treated as sex/toy objects, curfew became a daily routine in the life of an ordinary citizen, the history of the last quarter of twentieth century Manipur aptly exemplified that. 'Sanamacha', 'Netaji', 'RMC', 'Malom ', 'Sanjita' , ' Manorama ' are not occasional, isolated, unrelated and singular events/incidents. They are the clear and open manifestations of the last twenty/thirty years of brutal and excessive inhuman oppression of the people by the Indian Army operating under/with full protection of AFSPA. It was/is against this monstrous Act that the whole of Manipur has been launching the anti-AFSPA movement ceaselessly.
The Manipur Uprising/Movement was made to appear as Manipur specific (as though the fight was only for the Manipuris) by the studied silence emanated from the neighbouring states. The near-total silence of other north-eastern states was both surprising and shocking, to say the least. Even then, the Manipur Uprising transcended the geographical boundaries of neighbouring states and significantly led to the Jeevan Reddy Commission which ultimately recommended repeal of the archaic Act.
The Mon massacre of December 4 , 2021 by Indian Army has now woken up the neighbouring states (Nagaland in particular) from their deep slumber and are now raising strong voices against AFSPA. As is wont with Manipur, Manipuris, particularly Meeteis do not sleep when it comes to raising voices/banners against this barbaric/inhuman Act. People of Manipur are solidly behind the Nagas/Mizos/Khasis and/or any other community (affected by the Act) in their fight against this draconian Act. How one sincerely wishes the Manipur Eruptio c wholeheartedly backed/supported/joined by the neighbouring states. One never knew that might have led to the removal of the Act from the entire north-eastern region(remember the Act was withdrawn from the Imphal Municipality Ares following the intense and relentless agitations by Manipuri Womenfolk). Better late than never though.
One really fails to understand though why Independent India, even after 74 long years of her independence, which is determined to delcolonise any colonial remnants/mindsets whatsoever still stands for this outdated/obsolete colonial Act. If truth be told, and it must be told, it is India, largest democracy in the world, which stands to gain everything by removing the Act.
The collective fight against AFSPA must continue. AFSPA should go, must be removed, from the soil of Seven Sisters.
Rajendra Kshetri is Professor of Sociology at Manipur University, Imphal. Author of 6 books, his latest " Letters from the Republic of Dust " is available at Amazon and Department of Sociology, MU.