IMPHAL, July 6: “The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women Rashida Manjoo who visited Manipur on April 28, last year presented her report on June 12 this year. She recommended, as a matter of urgency, the repeal of the AFSPA,” stated Babloo Loitongbam, adding that the Government of India reacted harshly against her recommendation claiming that it lacks “full objectivity and exhibits a tendency to over-simplify the issues”.
Babloo was speaking at a press conference organised by Human Rights Alert, Imphal on Sunday in the Regency Hall, Classic Hotel at 11 am.
Babloo said in her concluding statement to the UN Human Rights Council, the rapporteur mentioned her visit to Manipur and stated that she had never been subjected to the kind of humiliating treatment she received during her 14 visits to the country in any of her various missions in other countries.
Appreciating that the report “aptly outlines the due diligence obligations by the state to address not just the manifestations of violence – but most importantly its causes and consequences, so that social transformation becomes possible”, he said that civil society groups from Manipur participated in the interactive sessions after her report was presented and he took the floor on behalf of the Common Wealth Human Rights Initiative welcoming the report on behalf of the Working Group on Human Rights in India and the UN.
Among those who attended the UN session were HRA executive director Babloo Loitongbam, WAD general secretary Sobita Mangshatabam and Thangjam Dolendro, brother of Thangjam Manorama.
They were also present during today’s conference.
Others present in today’s function were Chitra Begum, co-convenor, District Women Committee, United NGO Mission, Manipur (UNM), Extra Judicial Execution Family Victim Association (EEVFAM) general secretary Idina and A Mobi, editor of Manipur This Week.
Sobita Mangshatabam, speaking on behalf of the Social Service Agency of Protestant Church in Germany and others, quoted from the report that “women in militarized region (…) live in constant state of siege and surveillance, whether in their homes or in public” and provided further insights using the experience of North East India.
She asserted that “rape and sexual and physical harassment of indigenous women by the army personnel was used as an instrument of war”.
Thangjam Dolendro Meitei, taking the floor during the interactive dialogue following the presentation of the report by the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, narrated the story of his sister Thangjam Manorama. He wondered why the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is used to protect the very criminals who raped and murdered his sister.
Over and above these two-minutes-direct-oral-interactions, the civil society group also organised side events on 11 and 12 June to explain in detail the human rights situation in Manipur to the interested participants of the Council. A film ‘Claiming Justice: Women’s Struggle against Impunity in NE India’ produced by HRA and EEVFAM was also screened, he added.
“Closely following this debate in the Human Rights Council”, Babloo Loitongbam said, “India was again reviewed by the UN Committee on Elimination of Discrimination Against Women on 2 July.”
He added that it may be noted that the United NGO Mission Manipur submitted an alternate report to the CEDAW Committee.
Pramila Patten of Mauritius, an expert on women rights asked many critical questions about AFSPA.
She asked about the priority given to the Justice Verma-Report, the stance of the new government vis-a-vis AFSPA and the permission to have trials against army personal within the framework of AFSPA, he added.
He said that the government delegation argued mainly about the operational needs of the army that in some areas it would be necessary to protect the armed forces for it to be effective although there should be no misuse.
The government is continuously surveying AFSPA, and misuse of the regulation would be accordingly prosecuted. For the moment, it would not be possible to repeal AFSPA. In addition, AFSPA is not enforced in large areas of Manipur, he added.
As the council was not convinced, Patten returned to AFSPA with the Justice Verma-Report as a source and quoted from it. However, no additional explanations were given by the government delegation, he said.