Fractured Democracy

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By Seram Rojesh
Irom Sharmila, 39 year old woman of Manipur has completing her 11th year of her hunger strike on 4th November 2011. She has been fasting to repeal the Armed Forces Special Power act 1958(AFSPA 1958). Against this act, 12 mother of Manipur had challenged the government of India by showing their body without any clothes in public on 15 July 2004. A student’sleader PabemChitaranjan self-emulated himself on the independence day of India, 15 August 2004 to strengthen the movement against AFSPA and the rule by Delhi as he considered “Indian Colonial rule”. People from other state in the region, Nagaland, Mizoram, Assam, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir have been strongly opposing this Act. Now, manypeople who believe in democracy in India and around the world have also joined the movement to repeal an undemocratic, draconian and most dangerous act of the world.

One can say, it is only after Anna fast and the India Against Corruption agitation, the issue of AFSPA and Iromsharmila’s fast became part of the public discourse in India. This entire 53 years struggle against this act is quite enough to throw it from India, but the kind of an “exclusive and aggressive nationalism” and its neo-colonial politics by the dominant and majoritarian political class in India, this act is still disturbing, torturing, oppressing, subjugating people living within the territory in India under “Disturb Area”. In fact, one can say that the Indian State is disturbing the life of the people in both sides for those who are receiving AFSPA and also performing AFSPA particularly the personals of Indian armed forces for those who have joined to the armed forces as supposed to protect the citizens residing within the territory from the external aggression and war from any foreign countries. Because of the impunity and enormous power given by the Indian state to the armed forces in the disturbed area, many of them are forced to commit a crime against the people, women, men and children. Many of them become a killer, rapist, molester in the disturbed area. It is mainly because the armed forces in the disturbed area are made above the law of the country, India. It is because of the legal protection of the Indian armed forces are enjoying in disturbed area. The rapist Army Jawans who raped ThangjamManorama in the early morning of 11 July are still free and they are in service with their uniform on the ground. Section 6 of the AFSPA say, “No prosecution suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the central Government in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.” There has not been a single case that Government of India had given“sanction” to a particular case it was demanded in the case of Manipur.On the issue of punishment to the rapist Army in the case of Manorama rape and killed in custody of the Indian armed forces in Manipur, the Home Minister of India, in 2004, Mr. Sivaraj Patel said that “if they are punished than the moral of our armed forces would go down. They are fighting a war from a very far mile ago”. 7 years is passing through since 2004, none of Indian armed forces who were responsible of 11 July have not been punished. So, it is not in a case that some black ship military personals rape women in Manipur or Kashmir or in any other disturb areas. It is the state itself raping, torturing, killing hundreds of thousands of women, men like Manorama. It is the kind of “Indian Nationalism” is raping women in disturbed area. All this criminal acts are done under the name of “Bharat Mataki Jai”. Time has come to be engaged critically to this kind of nationalism in India.The armed forces personals are also victims of “this nationalism”. In the process many of the armed forces personals had been transformed into a killer, rapist, all kinds of criminals in the disturb area where they are made above the law. It is because of the kind of enormous power and legal protection they are provided. When these armed forces came out from the disturb area like Manipur, Kashmir & Nagaland to the other non-disturb area, state and metropolitan cities of India like in Delhi, Mumbai, Tamil Nadu, Utter Pradesh  or any other places, they can’t even talk to public decently not imagining to rape and torture in uniform. They have no power to do so as they are given in disturb areas. One can recalled an incident in Delhi that an armed forces personal who was part of the security group of the President of India was punished and put him into the jail after he was found for raping a woman in Delhi.

IromSharmila started her fast formally on 5th November 2000 after she saw 10 dead bodies killed byMalom massacre on 2nd Nov. 2000. 10 civilian were gun down by ISF. Among the 10 civilians, one woman was 60 years old and 54 years man who was also a Manipur government employee. Onechildwas the child bravery awardee under 19 years awarded by Persident of India. They were waiting a bus at the Mallom bus stop. They were all gun down by the jawans after they found one bomb wire from 100km away of that bus stop. Jawan have sent a message through the 10 dead bodies to those who planed and put wire to that area as if anyone planed anything which might hurt to them than they would kill the people whenever they found people anywhere. None of the armed forces personal who killed 10 civilian has not been punished in the last 11 years. Iromsharmila is still fasting. She is not only asking particularly to punish the killer armed forces because she knew that until and unless AFSPA is not repealed, Indian Armed forces could not be punished. AFSPA section 4(a) allows shooting to kill people on the mere suspicion, on the basis of the decision of the armed forces. Under this impunity, 14 killed on 18 June 2001, 12 killed at Tabungkhok, Tamenglong in 2000, 9 killed at RMC hospital in 1996, 15 killed in Oinam village operation at Senapati in 1987,13 killed at Heirangoithong in 1984 and many more, not ending the list and many more will be killed in future. If this act AFSPA continues to operate, it will continue to witness the endless massacres. More than 20000 people have been killed in the last 53 years of AFSPA regime in Manipur.

One of the many dangerous part of this act is the power of the executive has in the Distured area. The armed forces have both the executive and judiciary power in the disturb area. They have both the power to arrest and prosecute the people. The institution of judiciary is dismantled in the territory of AFSPA regime in India.There is no institution of Judiciary under AFSPA.

The institution of Judiciary is themselves the Armed Forces. All the basic fundamental rights of being a citizenship provided by the constitution of India are suspended in the AFSPA regime. You can’t imagine a democratic state and society without the functioning of a powerful institution of judiciary. Interestingly, general people in India still claim that India a “largest democratic country” in the world even though these people believe in AFSPA a way of governance for a section of a certain population within the territory of India . One can say that the constitution of India is not applicable in disturb areas. AFSPA is another face of the constitution of India. Manipur, Nagaland, Jammu& Kashmir and any other disturb area is now under the “state of exception”. The well-knownacademician Mr. George Agamben argues in his book that the state of exception is not making a new law but simply the suspension of the constitution for specific reasons.

It is argued by the state and ruling class of India that AFSPA is necessary because of the situation in Manipur or in J&K or any other in disturb area. It is said that if the situation is good than there is no need of AFSPA application. George Agamben clearly said that the discourse of necessary is nothing but the justification of the state of exception.

The very institution of “Army” of a nation is made for war and instituted to defend the country from external aggression from enemy territory or to deal with enemy. It has no place and role in the civilian population, within a territory if the civilian populations are not subjected as “enemy” of the country. After the Dantewada incident anattack by Maoist and killed 76 CRPF personals, the idea of enemy of Indian state became very clear. The Chief of Army and all the political parties in India saying that Indian armed forces can’t be deployed in the central India because it would create more problem rather that solving the problem. Army can’t be deployed to deal with “people of own country”. The same Chief of the Army and all the political parties are saying a different language that without the army and power of AFSPA, it couldn’t rule the people of Manipur, North East India and J&K. The discourse of “our own people and can’t deploy Army never comes” to the discourse of Manipur or Nagaland even though they are living within the territory of India. Practically, it shows that people of Manipur and all the disturb area are considered as the enemy territory within the territory of India. People are enemy of the country that is why they have to be dealt and deployed by the Indian Army and Para-Military forces.

AFSPA is a symbol of fractured democracy in India. It is a manifestation of emerging supper power neo-colonial state of India.  One can understand that Indian state is under undeclared war against the population within this territory of India be it Manipur, Jammu and Kashmir or any other territories who lives under disturbed area.

Repealing AFSPA means ending this undeclared war by the Indian state to people of Manipur and all the disturb areas. It means in once senses giving full citizenship rights to the population of disturb area. It means to end the nature of neo- colonial state of India. It means to integrate the population of disturb area into a more democratic political system if not fully in India. It does mean transforming Indian state from a nature of neo-colonial state to a more democratic state. It does mean applying one rule of law in India. It means fully application of constitution of India in every part of present territory. It does mean not restricting the application of so called democratic practices at least up to West-Bengal, Delhi and Tamil Nadu etc. It does mean the transformation of today’s fractured democracy of India into a more little Democratic India. Most importantly it does mean a big relief for the people who have been living under military occupation in the name of AFSPA in the territories of so called “disturbed areas” and beginning a new life.

Seram Rojesh,
Doing PhD, Delhi School of Economics,
Department of Sociology, University of Delhi

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