IMPHAL, December 2: Victims of the Armed Forces Special Power Act 1958 and others who have lost relatives today shared their testimonies during a discussion on AFSPA.
The discussion was held on AFSPA and its impact on the people of Manipur with special focus on women and children in Manipur at the Manipur Voluntary Health Association (MVHA), Ningthem Pukhri Mapal.
It was organised jointly by the District Women Committee, Imphal East – UNMM, Conflict Widow Forum, Domestic Violence Survivor’s Forum and Kshetri Chanam Leikai Women Development Association as part of Women Action for Development’s 16 days of activism against Gender based violence.
Several widows of the armed conflict and other victims participated and shared their testimonials and called for the AFSPA to be repealed.
One of the widows who had lost her husband in the armed conflict said she would happily sacrifice her life if it could repeal the AFSPA.
Damdei Christian College lecturer Priyadarshini Gangte noted AFSPA has only given a negative impact on the society.
It is also important to impart lessons on human rights from the grass root level in the schools so that whatever the students become in their later life, they can atleast respect human rights, she recommended.
The lecturer also advocated refined recruitment of the Armed Security Forces personnel and to conduct training sessions on basic human rights of a person on a regular basis.
Gangte also called for the need to strengthen the State Women Commission to redress the grievances of the widows.
Clinical psychologist Khwairakpam Ramakanta noted the behaviour of fear psychosis among the general populace on seeing the security forces is very common in the State.
He said the AFSPA gives maximum power to the armed Security Forces and in return maximum grievances to the innocent public.
Memories of being a witness of extra judicial killings, atrocities of the Security Forces linger on the mind-set of the victims of conflict leading to depression, he said.
The psychologist also noted that sharing of their testimonials at the community level will help the victims minimise their fear.
He further called upon the people for a collective movement to demand repeal of the AFSPA, 1958.
WAD secretary M Sobita said Indian forces in the State of Manipur are using the Act as an instrument of war. This Act is a licence to kill and rape, she alleged.
Sobita maintained under the cover of the Act, the Indian forces have killed many innocent civilians since many years.
Suspects are not guilty until it is proven, but under AFSPA, the security forces can shoot to kill anyone on the mere ground of suspicion which is not only a disregard of the basic human rights, but it hugely affects the entire family of the victim, Sobita elaborated.
She said Irom Chanu Sharmila has been protesting and demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, 1958 in the wake of the Malom Massacre.
Although Sharmila has been on a fast for more than 15 years now against the Act, the government continues to remain silent even as people are getting killed every now and then under the Act, she claimed.
Those widowed by the arm conflict have been neglected by the government, she said citing that widow benefit schemes are available to only a few.
She said PDS items and rehabilitation programmes for widows have not reached the larger populace.
Later at the end of the discussion, the participants raised slogans demanding repeal of AFSPA-1958 and release of Sharmila, among others.