I am obliged to serve for the just cause of those who would like to live without being killed. I am stubborn and firmed with this belief. My cry for justice, like a child’s cry to its parents, is being repeatedly forwarded to the leaders and policy makers who would at present not listen to my prayers. I firmly believe that the issues that I raised are not meant to be dealt with sticks. I would like to see that the root cause of my prayer is being discovered and addressed with softer and healing touch. I shall never give up my stand without fulfilling my demand.
Excerpt from the Statement of Sharmila Jantar Mantar, Delhi, 6 October 2006
Comes the 5th of November 2015; it adds another year to Irom Sharmila’s non-violent fight for justice against the culture of impunity enjoyed by the Indian army under the provisions of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958). In the ‘Indian sub-continent’ where the ruling regime indulges in crimes against humanity and where Gandhian Ahimsa doesn’t hold the grounds, though eulogizing reminiscence of anti-colonial Satyagraha prevails; Sharmila uses her body as the weapon in the fight for justice and becomes a political prisoner. To recall, the immediate spark of this steadfast was the Malom massacre of 2nd November 2000 that killed ten innocent lives by the armed forces in Manipur.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is a notorious instrument of State terrorism, humiliations, prolonged detentions, tortures, killings, destructions, traumas, deprivations and disturbances; the logical culmination is unrestraint widespread culture of impunity by the law enforcing forces. This Act serves the agenda of creating a category of suspects and ‘disturbed areas’ to be oppressed at will; to suppress democratic voices against oppressive political regimes, exploitative market forces and destructive projects. The Act is symptomatic of an undeclared war trajectory superimposed on a category of subjected peoples, whose political aspirations and democratic rights are marginalized in the name of India’s security. The brutality of the colonial rule that British India had faced in the 1940s; identify it with any political jargon, we are today experiencing it in the ‘disturbed areas’.
[textmarker color=”C24000″]Section 1 of AFSPA empowers the Governor of a State or the Government of India to construe any area or territory as disturbed or dangerous, thereby empowering any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the Armed Forces to exercise powers prescribed by AFSPA. Section 4 of the Act empowers the concerned officer to ‘suspect’ and consequently act on ‘his’ suspicion to arrest anyone without warrant, to search any premise without warrant, destroy, and “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order for the time being in the disturbed area prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons or the carrying of weapons or of things capable of being used as weapons or firearms, ammunition or explosive substances.” Section 5 of the Act empowers the concerned officer to detain any arrested person with the least possible delay and does not stipulate any time frame of the detention. Section 6 of the Act defends guilty personnel as “no prosecution, suit or legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Government of India against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.[/textmarker]
Fifteen years of Sharmila’s fasting and political imprisonment, victim peoples’ protests, and ‘institutional’ recommendations from within India and beyond have done lots of symbolic damages to the legitimacy of AFSPA. However, the State holds on AFSPA dearly, as it act as a surrogate in militarily engagement with certain political conflicts arising out of the neoliberal structural constraints. At the same time, the agencies such as the military establishment and the corrupt personnel operating on the ground uphold AFSPA, in the name of counter insurgency, as it serves certain extra-institutional personal interests. The struggle against AFSPA, therefore, remains relevant inasmuch as it targets not only the instrument of oppression but also the regime in power that suppresses democratic rights. In this context, Sharmila’s fifteen years individual steadfast is commendable as it contributes to the collective struggle for justice and democratic rights. We express solidarity to the sky lantern demonstration against AFSPA to be organized by the Manipur Students’ Association Delhi on 5th November, 2015.