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AFSPA-Relevance Of 2004

Image Credit: Joe Athialy

More than 6 years down the line, since she was brutalized and later shot dead by Assam Rifles personnel on July 11, 2004, the name of Th Manorama continues to stir inner most sentiments. Other than Irom Chanu Sharmila, no one has been able to bring the people together shoulder to shoulder and fight a system, that goes against the very ethos and principles of mankind and not only democracy. The tragic end as well as the humiliating experience Manorama had to undergo at the hands of the Assam Rifles personnel is something beyond our imagination but the irony of the tragedy that was Manorama is something that cannot be brushed aside easily.

It sounds unrealistic and even farcical, but no chroniclers of modern Manipur can overlook the fact that it was her death that forced the then Prime Minister of India, Dr Manmohan Singh to personally fly down to Imphal to take stock of the situation and took up some measures to address the sentiments of the people. Kangla, the sacred site, which is not only a place of historical relevance, but is also intrinsically linked with story of Manipur, was handed to the people of India by shifting the Assam Rifles to an alternative site. It was not only the handing over of a place to the people, but was also a subtle recognition and gesture towards acknowledging the history of Manipur and respecting the sentiments of the people. This is fine, but the fact that Kangla was handed over to the people over the battered, brutalized and bullet riddled of Th Manorama will become something of an important chapter in the history of Manipur and the story of Kangla.

The voice of dissent and opposition to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has been there for long, much before even Manorama was born, but call it fate or the tragic  turns and twists of human history, Manorama had to undergo not only a painful death but also all the humiliations possible, to stir the conscience of the political leaders of the land, particularly the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who is understood to have observed that a more humane Act is preferable than the controversial AFSPA. In other words, the Manorama episode gave a whole new perspective and understanding of the Nation towards the controversial Army Act. Not only was such a united, strong and audible voice of dissent aired against the continued imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, but it also brought the focus of the whole country to the finer nuances of the Act as well as the other underlying factors associated with it.

Manipur, particularly Imphal literally burnt in the days that followed after the body of Manorama was found, and the immediate changes, which are not cosmetic but genuine, are there for all to see. It was after this unsavory incident that the office of the IG Assam Rifles was set up in Manipur, which in a way was a measure to co-ordinate the functioning of the different sectors of the Assam Rifles, but also a measure to ensure that a higher office is needed for the Assam Rifles to function more effectively. The result is there for all to see today and more importantly it also showed the tougher side of the Chief Minister in going ahead and announcing the revocation of the said Act from seven Assembly segments located within the Imphal Municipal Council.

Following immense pressure a Judicial Inquiry was conducted by the C Upendra Commission, while the Army also claimed that it was conducting its own internal investigation. The C Upendra Commission finished recording its findings and recommendations and submitted the same to the State Government on November 22, 2004. Thereafter a series of suits and hearings in the civil courts followed and from 2004 till date, the findings of the Commission have been kept under wraps. Now thanks to the perseverance of the family members and support from others, the people of Manipur may finally get to see what the Commission has recommended and recorded when it is opened.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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