Process of lifting AFSPA From 2004 to 2023

The reasoning is simple enough. Law and order situation has improved so the Disturbed Area tag, which ushers in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, has been removed. This is the line of thinking in the corridors of power and it is along this line that the said Army Act has been revoked from areas which come under 19 police stations. One here is immediately reminded of the stormy days of 2004 when the then Congress Government under Chief Minister O Ibobi was compelled to lift the Disturbed Area tag from the areas that come under the Imphal Municipal Corporation, then a Council, after the mass protest triggered by the ravaged and bullet riddled body of Th Manorama. Fast forward to 2023 and the area that is now free of AFSPA covers areas under 19 police stations. So AFSPA removed from some areas in 2004 over the ravaged body of Th Manorama and the nude protest staged in front of Kangla which then housed the Assam Rifles and areas under 15 police stations in 2023 and to many this would occupy some very important chapters while penning down any story on Manipur. The important and crucial question is, has AFSPA been lifted from some areas following an improvement in the law and order situation ? If the answer is in the affirmative then does it mean that AFSPA has been successful in maintaining law and order ? Or does the argument that after the whole of Manipur came under the Act in 1980, the number of armed organisations only increased, still run ? Did the continued imposition of AFSPA help in any way in neutralising the feeling of alienation that seemed ingrained in the psyche of the average folks of North East India, particularly Manipur ? There may be no answer in black and white and it would perhaps help if some serious thought is given to the questions raised here for it can go some way in promoting Nation building, a process which seems still underway. Many others would also argue that the process of Nation building is still underway, and the continuation of the Army Act is deemed necessary to protect the idea of India as a Nation in the North East region of the country as well as in Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, it may also be argued that the continuation of the Army Act in areas which fall outside the 19 police stations is an indication that the understanding of ‘improvement in law and order situation’ is still extremely localised and is not a pan Manipur reality. This should then raise the question of why the BJP led Government at Imphal has been trumpeting on the ‘improved law and order’ situation.
As noted earlier, there will be no easy answers here, but it is significant to note that the BJP led Government at Delhi has taken the right steps in lifting the dreaded Army Act from some areas of Manipur. Improved law and order situation could be the official line being maintained, but it could also be an admission that the Army Act is not needed to keep a Nation intact. What is more important is to win the trust and confidence of the people and certainly that is something which cannot be won over through the barrel of the gun. AFSPA is a remnant of the British Raj and it was an Act eacted by an alien force which had no affinity with the people of India and the land. It is this line which should be defeated and the BJP led Government at New Delhi should look for ways to totally revoke the said Army Act from the North East region. It stands that the continued imposition of AFSPA only pushed the people away from all that New Delhi stands for in many ways the Army Act was seen as an instrument to harass, torture and kill the people. There are examples galore to illustrate this point and the best way forward would be for all to sit back and seriously study why the nude protest at Kangla was staged in 2004 and why and how Irom Sharmila emerged as a crusader against AFSPA going on a fast for 16 years.