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High Profile AFSPA Meet At Delhi Today

New Delhi, Sept 7: Indian civil society organizations, women activists from the Northeast and other parts of the country, scholars, parliamentarians and members of the armed forces are joining hands to assess the call to repeal the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) during a one day conference at India International Center in New Delhi.

‘AFSPA has entered its 52 years of implementation. Government panels, United Nations and hundreds of civil society organizations across India have called for its repeal, but the issue continues to remain dead- locked,’ says conference organizer Binalakshmi Nepram.

‘Our meeting is intended to break this deadlock and to bring forward various views on the issue, so that we can consult and advise each other to the best viable solution.’

The conference is an initiative of the Northeast India Women Initiative for Peace (NEWIP); a network initiated by the Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network and Control Arms Foundation of India, in collaboration with People’s Union for Civil Liberty (PUCL), Indian Social Action Forum (INSAF), KRITI and others organizations.

Among the participants will be survivors of violence such as Ima Sinam Chandragini from Malom Village in Manipur, who lost two sons in the Malom Massacre of November 2000. There are also Hon’ble Members of Parliament such as Dr. Thokchom Meinya from Manipur, as well as security experts such as E. N. Rammohan, former Director General of the Border Security Force.

Enacted in 1958 as a short – term measure to allow deployment of the army against an armed separatist movement in India’s northeastern Naga Hills, AFSPA has been invoked for more than five decades and since been used throughout Northeast India. A variant of the law was also used in Punjab during a separatist movement in the 1980s and 90s, and has been in force in Jammu Kashmir since 1990.

Officials have long sought to justify the use of the law by citing the need for the armed forces to have extraordinary powers to combat armed insurgents. However, human rights abuses facilitated by the AFSPA have fed public anger and disillusionment with the Indian state.

‘Not only is AFSPA a draconian law that should not have remained in force for decades, it has now become an objective of hate. It has been abused directly by soldiers, and has also created a climate of impunity and abuse that has emboldened other police and paramilitary to commit human rights violations’, says Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of Human Rights Watch.

AFSPA has allowed members of the armed forces to perpetrate abuses with impunity, because certain clauses in the law provide them with relative immunity from prosecution, adds Security Analyst, Ravinder Pal Singh: ‘The military feels protected by AFSPA. But this has negative outcomes for the military in its discipline and professionalism. It would be useful to examine a modifying legislation that discourages possible of acts of impunity by the security forces.’

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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