AFSPA is an undemocractic Act, has claimed many lives

AFSPA is an undemocractic Act, has claimed many lives

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) has claimed lives of at least 25,000 people directly or indirectly, former member of National Security Advisory Board and Shillong Times Editor Patricia Mary Mukhim said.

Addressing students of communication in a panel discussion on AFSPA organised as part of ‘Article 19’, the three-day communication festival organised by the School of Communication in Manipal University on Saturday, Patricia termed AFSPA as an “undemocratic and Draconian act” in democratic India.

Stating that 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters held in Manipur alone are pending before the Supreme Court, she said one has to visit northeastern states to understand the situation there.

A number of innocent people are caught between the insurgents and the police/armed forces, she said and added that according to an estimate, more than 95,000 people continue to live in camps due to insurgency.

Noting that militancy in the northeastern states is much evolved, Patricia claimed that the militants/insurgents have sophisticated weapons, including the rocket launchers which reach India via Mizoram from Myanmar.

“It’s a very difficult task to monitor the open border which is about 1,600 km in length,” she observed.

Lauding the efforts of Tripura state government and Chief Minister Manik Sarkar for withdrawing AFSPA after 18 years (imposed in the state on February 16, 1997 following spurt of violence by the ultras), Patricia said all it requires is a political will.

Another speaker, Dr Monish Tourangbam, who is currently Assistant Professor at the Department of Geopolitics and International Relations (Manipal University), who hails from Manipur, said he faced tough times when he was in Delhi during Diwali as it was difficult for him to differentiate the sound of crackers and bombs.

Clarifying that he is not against the Indian Army, but only against a specific act (AFSPA), he was all praise for the armed forces, which were in the forefront to rush in any emergency, including to Chennai during the recent floods.

He also regretted that AFSPA is becoming an object of hate (among some people) towards the Indian Army.

Dr Venkata Bhusura Jagannadha Rao Chelikani, who has been associated with the UNESCO (in Paris) as the president of Association Internationale pour le Partenariat Enterprises, said the act may be needed in sprit, but depends on its application.
Stressing on the need to discuss more on Article 21 (Right to Life) than Article 19 (Freedom of Speech and Expression) (incidentally the festival theme too is Article 19), he said there is a need to change or redefine certain “old words” such as ‘Sovereignty’ and ‘Nationalism’.

“There is a dire need to defend human beings than to defend the territory,” he observed and regretted that more number of people are killed in the name of religion than in war.
In the concluding remarks, the moderator referred to the high-power commission headed by the Supreme Court retired judge Santosh Hegde (constituted in January 2013) to probe six encounter deaths in Manipur.

Perhaps, the observation is applicable to other areas too, he said.

“The commission noted that AFSPA was an impediment to achieve peace in regions such as Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast. The commission also said the law needs to be reviewed

every six months to see whether its implementation is actually necessary in states where it is being enforced.”