- What are we campaigning for
- Why this Campaign
- AFSPA background and issues
- Background Irom Sharmila
- Campaign Updates
NAPM along with other people’s movements and civil society groups many other movement groups, student bodies and civil society organisations are calling the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA). We are also calling for the concurrent release of Irom Sharmila Chanu a civil rights activist from the state of Manipur who has been on hunger strike and under house arrest for over 11 years with her primary demand being the repeal of AFSPA.
Continuing with our efforts for establishing the democratic values in the society and in solidarity with the struggles of democratic movements of North East and J&K National Alliance of People’s Movement (NAPM) calls upon the Government of India:
1. To repeal immediately:
- The Armed Forces (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) Special Powers Act, 1958 (as amended in 1972
- The Jammu and Kashmir Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1990
2. Refrain from inserting any part of the Acts into any other legislation granting unbridled powers to the armed forces of the union or the State police
3. Immediately work out and announce a phased, time-bound demilitarisation plan to withdraw the Army and other paramilitary forces from internal security duties in NE States and J&K
4. A concurrent release of Irom Sharmila Chanu.
In the areas in which AFSPA is enacted it gives an officer of the armed forces extraordinary powers of arrest, imprisonment and use of force up to that causing death against individuals seen to have violated certain laws. AFSPA also gives these officers virtual immunity from prosecution. The provisions of AFSPA violate international human rights laws, lead to wide scale human rights abuses, fuel conflicts and destabilises the economic, social and governance infrastructures of the states in which it is enacted. AFSPA is opposed by movement groups and the rights bodies in India and Internationally, various UN bodies and even by the Indian government’s own commissions and committees appointed to look into the matter. It is for these reasons that we oppose this act.
Irom Sharmila has been on a continuous fast against AFSPA since November 2010 the vast majority of that time she has been force fed in judicial custody without contact with her loved ones, supporters or the media.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is based on a colonial law used against Mahatma Gandhi it was promulgated initially in the Naga areas of Assam (later divided between 4 states) and later in Mizoram, initially in parts of Manipur and later in all of Manipur. The Ordinance after a brief discussion in the Parliament was endorsed and got the status of Act on August 18, 1958. Despite stiff resistance from various quarters who challenged it as a martial and draconian law. Since then it has been in force in one part or the other of the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura. Since 1991 a equivalent law, the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, has been in force in J&K. In many parts of the country continuation of AFSPA is illegal in view of the violation of the mandatory six monthly periodic review directed by Supreme Court in its 1997 Judgement.
AFSPA empowers the central or state government to declare any part of the state as a ‘disturbed area’, if in its opinion there exists a dangerous situation in the said area which makes it necessary to deploy armed forces in the region. This declaration is not subject to judicial review. The provisions of AFSPA gives army officers power to arrest or use any necessary force upto and including force causing death against any individual who is suspected of having violated laws which prohibit (a) the assembly of five or more persons; or (b) carrying of weapons. Officers may also enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests. Prosecution of an authorised officer requires prior permission of the Central government, in practice giving army officer vertual legal immunity.
AFSPA continues to be the most potent repressive tool of the Indian state that empowers even a non commissioned officer of the armed forces of union to kill on mere suspicion and provide legal immunity from prosecution, thereby causing untold misery and agony among the peoples of the affected regions. The imposition of AFSPA is synonymous to heavy militarisation in these states leading to gross civil and political rights violations including enforced disappearances, extra-judicial execution, torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, rape and other forms of sexual violence against women, arbitrary arrest and detention.
All this together has meant severe economic, social and cultural cost including erosion of civil administration, lack of access to education, basic health care, destruction of properties and sources of livelihood, and environmental destruction and ‘normal’ functioning of democratic institutions in these areas.
The continued and selective use of AFSPA against communities who have been demanding self-determinations rights is a cause of worry in the context of the increasing militarization of the society in the sub-continent especially after 9/11 and the growing communalisation of the polity in India as a whole and suppression of people’s democratic rights in the name of national security.
This law is more draconian than its predecessor ordinance used by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement. Under the pretext of controlling insurgency, this Act has only intensified the insurgency in the region by legitimised thousands of gross human rights violations like rape, torture, murder and “disappearances” of innocent people in the North East and J&K. The democratic movements in the North East and J&K have consistently demanded the repeal of the Act and demilitarisation for decades.
Irom Sharmila Chanu also known as the “Iron Lady of Manipur” is a civil rights activist from the Indian state of Manipur. Irom started her fast unto death on November 2, 2000, after the Malom Massacre. Her hunger fast, which has passed 10 years, is believed to be the world’s longest. Her main demand is the removal of the AFSPA from Manipur. Shortly after beginning her fast Irom was arrested and charged with attempting to commit suicide – an offence under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Irom has remained in judicial custody for the great majority of the time since the start of here fast. She is criminalised as a high security prisoner, denying her access to family, friends, supporters and the media. ‘Attempting to commit suicide’ is punishable by up to one year imprisonment so Irom is annually released and then rearrested as she refuses to end her protest fast. She is currently held at the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, where she is force fed a diet of liquids through her nose. Irom Sharmila has been declared a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International
NAPM along with many other along with many other movement groups, student bodies and civil society organisations have launched ‘Save Sharmila Campaign’ from October 2 to December 10 for repeal of AFSPA. One of such activities is to collect 10 lakh signatures to be submitted to President of India on December 10th the International Human Rights Day.