‘Iron lady’ completes 11 years of fast *The NCCI demands the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958

November 8, 2011 by  
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Irom SharmilaManipur, November 8, 2011: Various protest meetings and rallies were conducted in Manipur to show solidarity with ‘Iron Lady’ Irom Sharmila, who completed 11 years of fast-unto-death against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

Several local student bodies, civil society groups, human rights activists and cultural organisations came out in support of their Iron Lady and staged protest meetings and rallies on November 6 in the state.

Sharmila, who is in police custody, was produced before a magistrate in Imphal who extended her police custody by another fifteen days.

“My protest is really democratic. But our leaders are not really democratic,” said Irom Sharmila, who is on an indefinite fast since November 2, 2000.

She started her fast protesting against the killing of ten civilians allegedly by personnel of the Assam Rifles, a paramilitary outfit.

She has repeatedly been arrested and released on charges of ‘attempt to suicide’ under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code and forcibly fed through a feeding tube in her nose.

The AFSPA, enacted in 1958, empowers defence personnel in ‘disturbed areas’ such as Manipur and Kashmir, to search premises and arrest people without warrants, and to shoot to kill if they feel the situation requires it.


The NCCI demands the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958

The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been operative since 1958 in the North Eastern states of India – first in Manipur and Assam and then in 1972 it was extended to Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura; and again in 1990 it was extended to Jammu and Kashmir.  Under the act, if the area is declared as “disturbed” then the security forces are given unlimited power to kill in what is considered a situation that demands law enforcement. The armed forces are also entrusted with the right to arrest without warrant and to detain people without a time limit. It also gives legal immunity to Army personnel.

There have been enormous human rights violations perpetrated by the Army forces in the above mentioned states because of this Act.  According to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRM) of India from 1994 to 2007 there have been 1318 allegations of Human Rights violations of which, 1269 have been investigated by NHRM and 54 have been found to have truth in them. 115 persons only have faced punishment.

A five member committee headed by Justice Jeevan Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court submitted its recommendation in June 2005 calling for a repeal of The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. However the Government of India rejected the recommendations.

39 year old Irom Chanu Sharmila from Manipur has been on fast for the past 11 years demanding the withdrawal of AF SPA and her fast enters its 12th year on 5th November 2011. She has been detained by the authorities for the past one year but continues her fast. She has become a symbol of non violent protest. Unfortunately, the Government of India is not willing to negotiate with her to ensure that she ends her fast. The Chief Minister of Jammu Kashmir, Mr. Omar Abdullah had also called for the withdrawal of AF SPA in some parts of Kashmir.  This demands the attention of the government that this draconian Act be repealed.

The NCCI urges the Government of India to rethink and review its present policy of dealing with the states in the North East of India and the Jammu Kashmir crisis. We strongly demand the repeal of the AF SPA. In fact, it is a fact that the law and order situation has improved considerably in these states and the government ought to find new ways to build the confidence of the local people so as to sustain peace and stability. The NCCI reiterates that violence cannot be responded to with state sponsored violence.  The member churches of the NCCI hold firmly to the conviction that there can be peace only when is justice is assured.

– samuel jayakumar