By Madhu Chandra
Arm Forces Special Power Act 1958 (AFSPA) is termed a draconian and xenophobia law. Draconian because the Section 4 (a) of the AFSPA gives power to armed forces personnel to shoot at anyone suspicious; the Section 4 (b) to destroy the shelter of the armed rebels and the Section 4 (c) to search and arrest without warrant, which means any army personnel can shoot any one suspecting that she/he will have gun that may fire at him. Just a mere suspicious! The Section 6 of the AFSPA protects any armed forces personnel from prosecution, suit or legal proceeding except previous sanction by Central Government.
It is xenophobia law because it is selectively imposed upon seven North Eastern states; Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, whose feature and ethnicity are different from rest of the country for first 40 years and now extended to the people of Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.
Need not to repeat that AFSPA has failed to suppress insurgencies rather caused increase. Less is debated on the ideology why the youngsters take up arms and can it be solved without using arm forces. It will be worth to focus on other alternative measurements to solve five decades old socio-political crisis in North East India region.
Today is 27th death anniversary of India’s first lady Prime Minister – Indira Gandhi’s assassination. The Ministry of Development for North East Region (DoNER) had an advertisement on Times of India, conveying a message of development initiated by India Gandhi in North East India!
Definitely, socio-political table negotiation was initiated in 1971 between Government of India with Mizoram’s separatist insurgents under the leadership of Indira Gandhi. Negotiation continued under Rajiv Gandhi.
The chapter of insurgency in Mizoram, begun from early 1961, finally came to a close with the signing of the Mizoram Peace Accord on June 30, 1986 between the underground government of the Mizo National Front and the Government of India. Under the terms of the peace accord, Mizoram was granted statehood in February 1987.
Dealing the challenges of insurgencies in North East India, could it be a means of solution by going the way of Mizoram, initiated by Indira Gandhi and concluded by Rajiv Gandhi? Perhaps, it will be a better option than utilization of arm forces.
Win People’s Confident is perhaps the need of hour!
The problem of insurgency came to the end after Mizoram Peace Accord in 1986, since then Mizoram is most peaceful state, not only in the region but for whole of India. Mizoram is highest literacy rate in whole of India; it would have never been possible without bringing the insurgency to the end.
Interesting, perhaps, not sure, whether there was any attempt to remove AFSPA from Mizoram after the state became an insurgency freed state! Wondering why, Central Government has not moved to remove the AFSPA from the state? Having done so, it might convey a message to whole of the region that AFSPA is not a permanent law and it goes when state returns to normal life. It is like a missile kept targeted upon the state though the state does not it any more.
Winning people confident is the need of hour perhaps best to begin could be by removing AFSPA from those states that have returned to normal life. Because it will convey a message to all states which are demanding the repeal of the act.
My Personal Observation
What does it matter for the people of Mizoram, who live in peace and normal life, yet they still have this draconian law? I have recently travelled from Aizwal, the state capital, to Champhai a small town at Indo-Burma boarder. Truly and honestly, I did not see single armed force personnel except one or two police personnel in uniform in check gates.
The shadow of draconian and xenophobia law of AFSPA covers whole state of Mizoram but its operation is almost absent because insurgency ended, peace and normal life returned for last 25 years.
Mizoram State Assembly must pass a resolution to recommend the Union Government of India to lift up the AFSPA from whole territory of Mizoram. It will give definitely a message to whole region that table negotiation following the footpath of Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, could be a step to begin in bringing permanent and long lasting solution.
Lastly, not the least, after the fake encounter killing at Imphal on July 23, 2009, Tehelka exposed diktat nature of police commandos in the state of Manipur. The state kept burning for months and the Central Government got attention and gave strict order to law enforcing agencies to stop any forms of human rights violence. Since then, the killing has reduced and AFSPA was partially removed from Great Imphal areas. Union Home ministry must monitor the changes of the situation and consider paying attention of people aspiration.
Madhu Chandra is research scholar and social activist base based at New Delhi . He works as Spokesperson of North East Support Centre & Helpline (www.nehelpline.net).