The many stories that AFSPA spawns Making go the redundant Act

Not surprising it was the top news in all the newspapers published in Manipur. It was also the news to carry in many newspapers published outside Manipur. It must also have been the same in Nagaland and Assam. Local television news channels also lost no time in reaching out to known human rights crusaders from across the State to get their feedbacks and inputs and indeed when Manipur looks back to March 31, 2022, it will surely be remembered as the day when the Centre decided to do away with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in many parts of the State and not only in Manipur but also in Nagaland and Assam. To the people of Nagaland too, the decision of the Centre must have gone some way in soothing the troubled soul and mind of quite a large number of people, especially after the Oting massacre of Nagaland on December 4 last year. True law and order situation has improved considerably in the last couple of years and this could be one primary reason for the Centre to do away with the Army Act, which has for most of the time alienated the people rather than bring them closer to the idea of India as a Nation, but one must give credit where it is due. The BJP Government at Delhi has acted, at last. With the Army Act now redundant in many parts of the State, one is immediately reminded of Thangjam Manorama over whose lifeless, battered and bullet riddled body, all came together to demand the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act back in 2004. And when one talks about AFSPA and Thangjam Manorama, one is immediately reminded of the historic nude protest staged by womenfolk in front of Kangla back in 2004 and how the chain reaction it ignited constrained the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to personally fly down to the Imphal and announce the formation of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee. Members of the Committee took statements and viewpoints from a cross section of society and last heard it had recommended the withdrawal of the said Army Act. Grapevines had then said that the Centre failed to act on the recommendation following the stiff opposition from the Army establishment back then. The result is there for all to see-the recommendation never saw the light of day ! Nevertheless it was over the battered and lifeless body of Thangjam Manorama that the Army Act was repealed from the Imphal Municipal Corporation (then Council) in 2004 with the then Chief Minister O Ibobi buckling under the immense pressure that was mounted from all quarters.
The Army Act spawns many a tale. Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights-one is immediately reminded of the appeal filed by the rights group in the Supreme Court against the Union of India challenging the Constitutional validity of AFSPA in 1997 with the Court delivering its verdict in 1998 upholding the validity of the said Act, but nevertheless issuing a list of dos and don’ts for the Indian Army to adhere to. Irom Chanu Sharmila, the Iron Lady of Manipur who was on a fast against the continued imposition of AFSPA after the Malom massacre of 2000 in which 10 civilians were mowed down by security forces. Sharmila who became synonymous with everything against AFSPA carried on her fast for 16 years but the Government of India did not budge.  2000, 2004 and earlier 1997 and then in 2012, EEVFAM and Human Rights Alert took the alleged extra-judicial killings of over 500 civilians to the Supreme Court and this is where one is reminded of the thundering poser from the Court ‘How can a 15 year old child be a terrorist ?’ It is against this that the Army Act has been removed from many parts of the State and the significant part is, the move of the Centre came sans any outrightly visible outcry from the public at the moment. Or is it a question of AFSPA rearing its ugly head only when there are confrontations with unknown armed persons ? Ironic it is that a law which was enforced to enable the Army do its job ended up alienating the people. The move of the Centre in lifting the said Act from many parts of the State is acknowledged.