Dr. Asangba Tzudir
A notification from the Ministry of Home Affairs through The Gazette of India on 30th Dec. 2019 once again expressed the opinion of the Central Government that the area comprising the whole of State of Nagaland is in such a disturbed and dangerous condition that the use of the armed forces in aid of the civil power is necessary. Therefore, in exercise of the powers conferred by Section 3 of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958, the whole State of Nagaland is further declared ‘disturbed area’ for a period of 6 months w.e.f 30th December 2019.
The notification coming on the penultimate day of 2019 dampened the spirits of the people of Nagaland awaiting the New Year. It painted Nagaland as a state of lawlessness and therefore ‘disturbed and dangerous.’ And despite oppositions of the extension of AFSPA over the years, the act of extension has now become a normalized condition through a contradictory ‘state of necessity’ and thereby legitimize the extension of AFSPA. CSOs, Opposition, govt. officials have decried the extension of AFSPA in Nagaland highlighting the controversial nature of AFSPA.
The act necessitates the usage of the words ‘disturbed and dangerous’, and such an imagery is enforced through the mere sight of military patrolling on the streets provoking the realities of a temporal ‘law’ employed as a preventive measure which becomes a prolonged technique of ‘sovereign’ control. The implication on life is, there is a sudden shift from being a citizen to a bare body, a suspect who can be searched, arrested and even ‘shoot at sight’ when a normal situation threatens to become an exception as ingrained in exceptional laws like AFSPA. As an instrument of the state, it allows unrestricted power to the armed military forces to enter public spaces in the name of aiding civil powers and maintaining public order. This is just a fragment of the whole to cover up the real nature of the act which has the spontaneity of becoming an exception any moment wherein the exception becomes the ‘rule of law’ legitimating the creation of an exceptional situation by declaring a particular area as ‘disturbed.’ It is such moments that a supposed law enters into a ‘zone of indistinction’ between law and politics giving rise to a juridico-political law. Such a political order becomes institutionalised on the ‘body’ and displaces humans from the institutional and legal framework beyond any discourse on justice, ethics and morality. We live in a state of exception legitimated by a ‘right’ to produce ‘exceptional laws’ in order to legitimate exceptional measures which becomes a part of the normal legislative framework thereby changing the democratic and legal fabric of the society we live in.
For over sixty years, India’s North East still continues to witness the harsh realities of a hugely debated law that seek to restrict, suspend or deny the civil liberty of the individual citizens. These laws contravene the spirit and principles of democracy which is central to the individual’s life, dignity and civil liberty. And very undemocratically such claimed ‘temporary measures’ however, tend to traverse a trajectory that makes them into a permanent state of being. As such, a temporal measure has been in place for over sixty years within a permanent being called ‘state of necessity.’ Its prolonged imposition has rather brought in a state of lawlessness rather than a state of law.
Even as AFSPA moves at a threshold between law and politics in a zone of indistinction, subsequently, every passing day we too traverse through different zones of life between human and non-human. Its application has only resulted in the dehumanization of humans by reducing them to an object of ‘sacrifice’ that can be killed. Today, this form of ‘sacrilege’ has become a central component of theoretical investigations into violence and the foundations of unwarranted political authority vis-a-vis power and control. Nonetheless, emerging hegemonic regimes, new security paradigms and privileged executive control have only brought out the deep structures underlying the shifting currents of our evolving contemporary political landscape.
Given the ongoing experience with such exceptional laws operating under the power of the ‘sovereign’, a fear of lawlessness instils in us a conscience to seek order, justice, freedom and liberty but such laws has only resulted in the eventual dehumanisation of its people. One is made to wonder how a civilized nation can still legitimate such controversial laws in the name of ‘exception’ notwithstanding the aberrant human condition.
Considering the very nature of the law and its associated lawlessness, it is not the Nagaland that is disturbed and dangerous, rather AFSPA that is dangerous.
(Dr. Asangba Tzudir contributes a weekly guest editorial to The Morung Express. Comments can be mailed to firstname.lastname@example.org)