AFSPA and democracy cannot exist together: Imphal seminar

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IMPHAL, Oct 13 (NNN): The existence of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and democracy at the same time in India as incompatible and not in consonance with the Constitution but as applied arbitrarily just to quell the separatist movement in the North East and the constitution as defective without taking the whole voice and interest of the people but supplanted as representing all sections of the people of India, was seriously discussed unequivocally, concluded in a seminar today at Hotel Imphal here.

Attended by the cream of the state`s intellectuals – advocates, professors from Manipur University, journalists, doctors and other professionals like social activists, artists, social organisations, the one day discussion on “Democracy and AFSPA”, organised by Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM), Manipur from 9 am till 3 pm concluded that repeal for the draconian law like the AFSPA which has no basis for democracy should be worked out by joining hands with the whole of the North Eastern states and decried that Manipur was forcibly merged with India in 1949 without any concern for the welfare of the people but for its land and strategic position and duped the Look-East policy as one example of trying to fill the coffers of big businessmen from mainland India because there is no such person in Manipur except some small time traders.

Dr L Pardesi who chaired and moderated the seminar took a dig at the right to life as India`s directive principle and the right to take away lives as demonstrated in the existence of AFSPA as a dichotomy and said that till today there is no power against the Act and as long as the Act remains in Manipur, there is no hope for free and fair living. “There is something wrong with the Constitution of India`s democracy”, he said adding the declaration of the Supreme Court`s ruling of the Act as unconstitutional and yet at the same time justification of killing as empowered in the AFSPA. Dr Pardesi also lauded the Nagaland assembly`s ability to say no to the AFSPA and hoped Manipur too would follow suit. He also termed the Union of India as a merger of various tribes, castes and communities at `gun-point`.

Striving to change the democracy of India thinking for the betterment of tomorrow, some people have resorted to armed struggle, he said. Rendering a song, he promised to fight till the end to bring about a better world as everybody came into the world for such creation.

Resident Editor of Imphal Free Press (IFP), Irengbam Arun stressed the need for accommodating `alternative opinion`. Speaking in the seminar, Irengbam Arun said the tendency of civil society to ignore the `alternative opinion` is detrimental to the society. He said just going by what has been laid for us is not a correct move. “It is the time to retrospect among ourselves,” Aun advocated while adding, “The might is right culture under AFSPA has been going on for long and the situation of human rights in our state is quite grim,” Irengbam Arun rues.

Professor of political science, K Ibo, recalled how historically the name `draconian law` came into existence as derived from the name of a person assigned to make law which proved repressive without any humanity and the various ill treatment witnerssed in the II World War as resulting in the foramation of Human Rights Commission and the eventual declaration of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, when the world recognised the preciousness of human lives. And also discussed how the state was considered as incompetent to give `death sentenmce`, so life imprisonment was made the harshest punishment in the 18th century and recalled the wortd of PA Sangma, the last presidential candidate as saying: `there is no parallel in the  world, so inhuman, so reppressive`, in refference to the AFSPA. He questioned the existenc of AFSPA even after all the above considerations.

Professor of history, Naorem Joykumar of Manipur University spoke how he sees both the height of democracy and AFSPA as contradictory –One, Democracy is for the people, by the people and of the people, while the other, AFSPA is against all these. As such, the need for rethinking of democracy in the NE, he said. He asked a probing question as to what the mindset of India was and is from its annexation of Manipur from 1948 till now and the ASFSPA  as applied in a state like Manipur and the NE to which the central government does not have real interest for ttheir welfare but only looks at the benefit part from the point of New Delhi, mainly from the economic point of view like the Look-East Policy which he said will benefit New Delhi and for big businessmen which Manipur does not have.

Th Nando, member of PDM recalled how the law to curb terrorism has been turned against the people because of the system and callled on all to join hand to bring about a change.

A paper was also presented and read out by S Raghavan, President of Lok Raj Sangathan himself recalling how he first came to Imphal, and came face to face with the people of Manipur in 1984 which left a profound impression on him and recalled the case of Irom Sharmila and Manorama Thangjam which made the congress government in the sate promised to repeal the A FSPA. However, once they come to power, both at the Centre and state, do not want to withdraw the AFSPA. After investigation into all the murky details done by the Act, it is impossible to give a human face to the act, he said. The people of Manipur will be a willing part of the Indian union only if their aspiration for peace, security, dignity and well-being are met, he said. The army can keep the territory and not the people and how terrorist cannot be controlled by terrorist law and the only way is for the government to responmd to the aspiration of the people, he said. He also called for a roadmap to be developed for setting up a constituent Assembly and placed before the people of India for discussion and adoption. The peoeple of Manipur would decide on the final shape of the constitution of political power in Manipur based on the constitution of the new voluntary Indian Union, he stated.

Many others who also spoke and interracted on the occasion with all against the AFSPA are Haobam Sanajaoba of NRC, Shakhi of All Manipur Nupi Marup, Gopal, ex-president of PDM, S Bhubon of  NRC, Kumara from an NGO, Th Tarunkumar, Advocate, Rose Chara, Iboyaima, M Rajen, Shyam Charan, Angomcha Araba of Life Watch, and others.

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