By: A Bimol Akoijam
Going by the dominant views, primarily legalistic and devoid of political basis, on AFSPA amongst those who are protesting against the Act in Manipur, sometimes I wonder why the Government of India keeps on complicating the matter for themselves!?
They could have easily repealed AFSPA and introduce a more “humane” one by taking into account some of the criticisms such as the power to shoot has been given to the Non-Commission Officers (NCOs). Well, don’t give the power to shoot to NCOs, but give it to Commission Officers, if not JCOs! And as for the “Right to Life”, repeat the same argument given by the Supreme Court and introduce some safeguards along with Dos and Don’ts of the Supreme Court Judgment of 1997. And also, provide a rationale for the new act, beyond the “bare act” of the new “humane” legislation; Govt. of India must say, unlike what it did while introducing the AFSPA in 1958, that we have “terrorists” who indulge in “extortion” and “intimidate” and “kill” innocent people in Manipur!
But before they repeal AFSPA and introduce a new one as an alternative, make it sure that the Central leaders call people, some of the major players in the state selectively (invitation from the central leaders can instill quite a lot of “self-worth” to people who have been complaining of being “neglected”) and (this is important) Prime Minster must pay a visit to Sharmila in hospital-cum-jail and give a press conference and announce that Govt. of India has taken time to take the decision (insist in English, one cannot take a hasty decision, and that one cannot afford to follow “hou hou laobi” culture or episodic response but requires a “holistic” response etc.) as the AFSPA involves “political” issues, amongst other, issues of “national security and integrity”.
Make it sure that such an admission is followed by a statement (preferably in soft and emotionally laden tone) that “insurgents” are our brothers and sisters followed by an empathic remark starting with a BUT (make it sure that this word is stressed) that Govt of India cannot remain as a mere spectator to the suffering of the people in Manipur and allow the “terrorists” who “extort” and delay “development” to go on with their activities against “the people” of Manipur! (Note: For a cue, whoever says this must watch Indira Gandhi’s expression in an interview with BBC at the time of crisis in the then East Pakistan, why India could not remain a spectator to the human sufferings in East Pakistan in the hands of Pakistani soldiers!)
Lastly but not the least, such an announcement must be ended with wholesome praise for the Manipuris’ contributions to the world of sports, culture (theatre, dance, cinema etc) and announce some financial/development package, including plans to open KFCs and Malls!
After that, the Govt. of India don’t have to worry about a “movement” against AFSPA in Manipur and they can be sure of the moral high ground to watch the confusion and internal bickering amongst those protestors and people in Manipur for a while before it subsides ultimately!
In any case, if we go by what the Manipuris in general have understood about AFSPA as it can be seen from their slogans and articulations that reflect the way they understand AFSPA after all these year, it is unlikely that they will sense the problematic aspects of the fundamental political premise (of AFSPA and its would be substitute) that soon. After all, the alternative Act will take into account their complaints on NCOs and Right to Life etc). By that time, as such, situation would have also changed as various historical and unfolding forces would have shaped the world (including their own) differently.
[box type=”quote” color=”blue” size=”small” align=”right”]Government of India must make its move; and they can expect a lovely slogan from Manipur: Jai Ho Manipur, Indian-na Yaifare![/box]Of course, this doesn’t mean that there will not be fringe elements that will still talk and argue against the New Act for the basic problems inherent in the political premise of AFSPA and the new Act. But Govt. of India does not have to worry about those fringe elements, precisely because they are after all “fringe elements”. In any case, intrigues against each other, pulling down one another, and killing each other IS NOT a WEAKNESS for the people of Manipur. Therefore, those fringe elements will be effectively taken care of by the people of Manipur themselves!
Meaning, accusation of Perpetrating a Colonial Act over the people ends!!!!