A Tale of Two States

Irom Sharmila, the `iron lady’ from Manipur, wishes to meet Narendra Modi on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) revocation. Irom has been on unbroken hunger strike since November 2, 2000 the seeking revocation of the draconian law. She is being force-fed by the police but her fight continues.
The people of Kashmir too have been demanding the revocation of the law for the past one decade, but nothing seems to be moving, and the men in uniform continue to enjoy impunity even for acts that do not fall within the ambit of `duty’. Human rights groups have been saying that rape of women, extra-judicial executions, enforced disappearances and fake encounters do not constitute `duty’ and anybody accused of such heinous crimes should not get the benefit of Section 6 of the draconian law.
The state government cannot escape responsibility for shielding the culprits in the garb of the AFSPA. The state is under a legal obligation to file charge-sheets in civilian courts in such cases. It is the duty of the courts to decide whether sanction for prosecution is needed or not. The law is clear on the point. The courts have to apply their mind and see if there is scope for invoking the AFSPA. But law-enforcing agencies of the state refuse to register First Information Reports (FIRs) in such cases. And when an FIR is finally lodged on the instructions of the court, the charge-sheet is never filed. The irony is that the Chief Minister makes a lot of noise on the AFSPA, but fails to bring erring police personnel of the state to justice. The police are not governed by the AFSPA.
The state of Manipur has a similar story to tell. While the campaign of Irom is ignored, the gutsy lady is virtually under detention for over a decade. Irom has finally pinned hopes on the Prime Minister-designate, Narendra Modi. Some people in Kashmir are also hopeful of a positive development. According to them, Modi is likely to follow Vajpayee’s policy on Kashmir. But can Modi afford to touch the AFSPA? The army has made its stand clear, time and again. It has resented any dilution of the legislation and the new Prime Minister cannot go against the army. In the name of upholding `national interest,’ Manipur and Kashmir will continue to suffer.