15 years of fighting against the AFSPA

15 years of fighting against the AFSPA

Renthungo Odyuo
New Delhi | November 1


November 2, 2015 marks Irom Sharmila’s 15 year long battle against the imposition of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, (AFSPA), 1958 and her primary demand for removal of AFSPA.


Sharmila, a 42 year old poet and human rights defender from Manipur began her hunger strike on November 2, 2000, demanding the repeal of the AFSPA.


Over the years Irom Sharmila’s protest against AFSPA has gained popular support from cross sections of civil society. The imposition of the draconian act has cost numerous innocent lives in the North East Region and Jammu and Kashmir.


58 years since AFSPA was first promulgated in the year 1958, it has been criticized by several national and international bodies. “AFSPA has no role to play in Democracy…The repeal of this law will not only bring domestic law more in line with international standards, but also send out a powerful message”, the UN has observed.


The act has been denounced by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary executions; the High Level Committee on the Status of Women; the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee; the Second Administrative Reforms Commission and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir; the Justice Verma Committee; and the Justice Santosh Hegde Commission.


In commemoration of Sharmila’s long battle, social activists and scholars organized a ‘Convention on Repeal AFSPA’ at New Delhi in a series of Solidarity Nationwide Protests to repeal AFSPA and to mark 15 years Sharmila’s hunger strike.


Neingulo Krome, Secretary General of the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights (NPMHR) reiterated the impact of AFSPA at the societal level, both across Manipur and Nagaland. He said AFSPA has further “segregated and separated” society. He called upon all civil society organizations to come together in a quest to fight against the removal of AFSPA and applauded the sacrifice of Irom Sharmila.


Krome also took a dig at the Supra- Existential form of Indian Democracy which still upholds an outdated, colonial act that grants special powers to the armed forces in so called ‘disturbed areas.’


Social activist, Swami Agnivesh extended support of the Arya Samaj in solidarity with Irom Sharmila, and said: “we will fight together to repeal AFSPA. I salute her for her act of bravery.” He stated that the essence of Sharmila’s struggle is to sustain this movement through democratic means.


Prof. Nandini Sundar, Professor, Delhi School of Economic, narrated stories of two scholars from AFSPA affected states that brought alive the pain, struggle and deep damages AFSPA does. “It is the duty of the world to tell the Mighty State that all humans are equal,” she remarked.


Babloo Loitongbam, Human Rights Activist from Manipur, who has closely followed Irom Sharmila’s struggle against AFSPA said that it is important to remind the larger civil society on the “need to build momentum to repeal AFSPA”.


He commented on the legal Paradox- where Sharmila has been remanded to judicial custody 365 times; and the political paradox- the illusive response from the state polity despite tall promises during elections. He also spoke about the discriminatory factor associated with AFSPA, where “top military officials have confessed against imposition of AFSPA in Naxalite areas,” while there is “no emotional connect with the North East and Jammu and Kashmir communities.”  He further appealed to look at AFSPA from a larger perspective. “Irom Sharmila is not just about North East and Jammu and Kashmir, it’s about violation of democratic rights and values,” he said.


Prof. Sanjoy Hazarika said that repealing AFSPA would reaffirm the democratic nature of India. He termed AFSPA as a discriminatory law to degrade citizens. Stating that human security is crucial for economic growth, he remarked that insecurities and discriminatory laws should be addressed for the Act East Policy to achieve its potential.


Earlier Fr. Denzel, Executive Director, Indian Social Institute, gave the welcome address and called upon the stakeholders to “reflect on the state of our nation”. Students, social activists and hosts of other academicians attended the event. Organizers for the Convention on Repeal AFSPA include Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, Association for Protection of civil Rights, Students Islamic Organization, Bonded Labour Liberation Front, Just Peace Foundation, Forum Asia and Human Rights Alert.


Human rights bodies urge India to
release Sharmila and repeal AFSPA


NEW DELHI, NOVEMBER 1 (MExN): The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA), Human Rights Alert (Manipur), Amnesty International India and Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, in a joint statement today, urged Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Irom Sharmila and repeal AFSPA.


“Irom Sharmila’s 15 year hunger strike is a symbol of a brave struggle against injustice. The AFSPA has caused widespread human rights violations like enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, torture and sexual violence,” said Henri Tiphagne, Chairperson of FORUM-ASIA. In particular, “AFSPA has been used to justify killings on mere suspicion as well as granted virtual immunity through a clause prohibiting legal proceedings without sanction from the federal government, which is virtually never granted.”


Sharmila was arrested shortly after she began her hunger strike and charged with attempting to commit suicide, a criminal offence under Indian law. “According to Section 309, a person convicted of the crime of attempted suicide may only be imprisoned a year. Since then Sharmila has been arrested, released and rearrested to be released after a year of judicial custody where she is forced fed through a nasogastric tube,” said Babloo Loitongbam, Director of Human Rights Alert Manipur. Loitongbam stated that Sharmila has “never been convicted of charges of attempted suicide.


The organizations termed the criminalization of Sharmila’s peaceful protest as against the spirit of Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which guarantees the right of human rights defenders to promote and protect the realisation of human rights.


Meanwhile, the Women in Governance-India (WinG-India), a network of women human rights defenders (WHRDs) from north east India and Dalit community has also urged the Government of India to free Irom Sharmila and repeal AFSPA. The impact  of AFSPA on women and girls have been especially devastating ranging from  sexual violence, displacement and loss of support bases, enforced disappearances, extra judicial killings of family members, lack of all forms of human security and constant sense of fear and dread, the WinG-India said in a press note released today.