Manipur encounter deaths show pattern of carelessness, says Supreme Court #AFSPA


J. Venkatesan, The Hindu

Centre assures Bench that it will come out with dos and don’ts for security forces

The Centre on Tuesday informed the Supreme Court that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would take a decision on the expert committee report holding that seven persons were killed in Manipur in fake encounters in six cases.

 

Additional Solicitor General Paras Kuhad submitted this before a Bench of Justices Aftab Alam and Ms. Ranjana Desai hearing a public interest writ petition highlighting how mass killings had taken place in the last decade. The committee comprised the former Supreme Court judge, Justice N. Santosh Hegde, the former Chief Election Commissioner, J.M. Lyngdoh, and the former DGP of Karnataka, Ajay Kumar Singh.

 

Justice Alam told counsel: “We can’t tell you how sorrowful we are. What is the use of sitting here? Everything appears meaningless.” The committee, in its report, said six cases of encounters resulting in the killing of seven persons were fake and the victims did not have any criminal background. The committee also reportedly recommended withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

 

‘No respect for human lives’

 

The Centre also assured the court that it would come out with “dos and don’ts for the security forces” and sought four weeks for responding to the report. When senior counsel V. Giri, appearing for the Manipur government, wanted the court to lay down guidelines on this issue, the Bench observed: “How many times this court laid down guidelines. Tragedy is guidelines are not followed. We want to proceed further and these things should not happen in future. These deaths reveal a pattern of carelessness. No respect for human lives.”

 

The Bench said, “Security forces are also human beings, away from family. They also get brutalised. These people are also young and in the midst of violence. They also don’t lead a normal life.”

 

NHRC suggestion

 

In its response to the committee’s report, the NHRC said: “To ensure that all such incidents in the future are thoroughly investigated, irrespective of whether they involve the Army, the paramilitary or the police, or are joint operations of these forces, the Government of Manipur must follow the NHRC guidelines on the steps to be taken after encounters.”

 

Detailed enquiries

 

The steps are: reporting these incidents within 48 hours to the NHRC and holding magisterial inquiries within three months. These enquiries should not be perfunctory, as they presently are.

 

The magistrate must inter alia closely examine all reports, including of post mortem, inspect the site and take statements from the families of the victims; the CBCID should inquire into each incident within two months.

 

“In every instance where the nature of the incident warrants it, the Government of Manipur should appoint a Commission of Inquiry headed by a judge. It must accept the findings and act on the recommendations of these commissions, instead of burying them, which is its current practice. The constitution of such a Commission of Inquiry must immediately be reported to the NHRC, and the report sent to it as soon as it has been tabled in the Legislative Assembly.”

 

The Bench adjourned the hearing by four weeks.

 

#India- Criminalising People’s Protests #Iromsharmila #AFSPA #Vaw


iromsmile

EPW Vol – XLVIII No. 14, April 06, 2013 | Anand Teltumbde

The manner in which Irom Sharmila‘s demand for the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act has been handled by the Indian state is indicative of its intent to further narrow the scope for democratic protest, even opposition that is centred on the right to life itself. With such actions, the state is subtly communicating to the people that there is no democratic option left in the country.

Anand Teltumbde (tanandraj@gmail.com) is a writer and civil rights activist with the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights, Mumbai.

Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it.

– Howard Zinn

Public protests signify that democracy is alive and well. Whatever its form, the essence of democracy is the space it provides for people to voice their protest against the government. However, while India has managed to flaunt for decades that it is the world’s largest functional democracy, it has systematically decimated such space for the masses. Today, this space has been symbolically reduced to small designated pockets in every state capital where aggrieved people can gather and shout to their hearts’ content only so that they can hear themselves. Not much unlike jails, with their barbed wire fences and narrow openings guarded by a thick posse of armed policemen, the authorities do not let public protest infect the people at large. The maximum the people protesting at these places can reach is the police sub-inspector seated there to receive their memorandums. Indian democracy has not, however, been content with this general strangulation of democratic space; it often takes offensive against the protesters by slapping criminal charges on them. Examples are legion but the recent proceedings against Irom Sharmila, the iron lady of Manipur, who was brought to Delhi to face trial for her “crime of attempting suicide” at the Jantar Mantar best highlights this trend.

Sharmila’s Crime

Sharmila’s protest began with her indefinite fast on 3 November 2000, a day after 10 persons were shot down by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian paramilitary forces operating in Manipur, while waiting at a bus stop just outside Imphal. The incident later came to be known as the “Malom Massacre”. Within days, Sharmila was taken by the police, and since then, she is being force-fed a liquid concoction of nutrients in a hospital, which serves as her prison. After every year in detention, she is released for a day and rearrested for attempting to commit suicide, because she refuses to call off her fast until the government repeals the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), which is in force in Manipur, Assam, Nagaland and parts of Arunachal Pradesh besides, Jammu and Kashmir. Now in its 13th year, her protest is the longest hunger strike in recorded history, which has shaken the entire world but failed to sensitise the Indian rulers. On the contrary, they chose to actuate their penal machine and charged her with an “attempt to commit suicide”, which is unlawful under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code.

The AFSPA against which Sharmila reiterated her protest to the metropolitan magistrate, Delhi however continues on the statute. This draconian Act that giving the army the unquestionable powers to shoot to kill, arrest and search or even destroy property on mere suspicion and enacted as a short-term measure to allow the deployment of the army in India’s north-eastern Naga Hills, has been in existence for over five decades. According to a report entitled “Manipur: Memorandum on Extrajudicial Summary or Arbitrary Executions” by the Civil Society Coalition on Human Rights in Manipur and the United Nations, altogether 1,528 people, including 31 women and 98 children were killed in fake encounters by the security forces in Manipur alone between 1979 and May 2012. Of these, 419 were killed by the Assam Rifles, while 481 were killed by combined teams of Manipur Police and the central security forces. These are gory statistics but they do not tell the human tragedy that befell entire generations that grew up under the shadow of the gun. It is a usual sight in Manipur to find even school kids sitting in protest against the atrocities by the armed forces.

Logic of the State

The government cites the ongoing insurgency in the hilly state to explain its stand against the repeal of AFSPA. According to its argument, nearly 15 militant outfits are active in the state and in the period between 2007 and 2011, over 1,500 people were killed in militancy-related violence, among them were 1,011 militants and 406 civilians. This argument itself should prompt a simple question, if the army, with a free hand, has not been able to control the so-called insurgency over five decades, what is the justification for the Act? It may even be argued that the insurgency, given the government’s own statistics, has increased during the currency of the Act. This is because the excesses committed by the armed forces with impunity alienate people and impel them to take up the gun. If one dispassionately looks at the north-eastern states, comprising about 7% of India’s total area and 3.7% of its population, bigger than many countries but devoid of any notable development, one cannot but get a feel that they are like a colony governed by the armed might of India. The Constitution does provide for emergency clauses but they are meant to be short-lived. The arguments the government and its army establishment proffer for continuing with AFSPA are, interestingly, the same as the arguments advanced when the 1942 ordinance was enacted in order to keep the British Empire intact.

The same logic extends to the protesting people in mainland India. There are scores of draconian laws like the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act, the National Security Act, and various provisions in the penal code, like “sedition”, which continue to mock at our claim of being a democracy. Given the increasing divide between the majority of people mired in abominable poverty and powerlessness and a miniscule minority with all the pelf and power, people’s protests are a natural outcome. During the initial decades of post-Independence India, when the ruling classes had not yet consolidated themselves, these protests were responded to by the state with colonial decency. But by the mid-1970s, an oppressive Emergency was declared, and after a spell of political turmoil, the country entered the neo-liberal era that ideologically trashed social protests and legitimated the oppressive social Darwinist ethos of the rulers. The enforcement of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) in 1985 succeeded by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) in 2002 and thereafter UAPA in 2004 during this era, duly aided by global “security syndrome” unleashed by 9/11, should be seen in that light.

The much-maligned Maoist movement is essentially a public protest, notwithstanding its mode of expression, as acknowledged by the government occasionally, but the latter has chosen to criminalise it, calling it “the biggest internal security threat” and waging a full-fledged war against it. Today, it has begun to do the same to civil rights activists, trashing them as Maoist supporters. These activists along with many legal luminaries have been cautioning that the ordinary laws if operated equitably are capable of tackling any kind of criminal activity. The extraordinary laws with draconian provisions create a false notion of security but there is no empirical evidence that they really work. Invariably, they have operated as oppressive tools against innocent people and thereby aggravated the very problem which they were supposed to solve. It is the perceived injustice of the state that impels people to extremity. The paranoia of the ruling classes is proving myopic in ignoring the grave consequences to democracy.

Grave Consequences

The saga of Irom Sharmila and the Manipuri people struggling against AFSPA will surely leave an indelible mark on our democratic credentials. What could be a more intense protest by an ordinary citizen of this country within the constitutional framework than hers? Could there be a more intense expression of public anguish than the prominent women of Manipur disrobing themselves in front of the Army Headquarters and shouting “Indian army rape us”, this in the wake of the rape and murder of Thangiam Manorama in 2004? Can there be a more innocent movement than Anna Hazare’s? But none has been able to shake the power-drunk government. On the contrary, the government has variously criminalised all these protests.

There are numerous other protests happening all over the country: the recent protests against the anti-nuclear power plants at Jaitapur (Maharashtra) and Koodankulam (Tamil Nadu); spontaneous protests of dalits in Maharashtra after the Khairlanji murders; people’s nationwide protests against the Right to Education Act; the ongoing protests against corruption and black money; and those against the violation of human rights, to name just a few. All these have been spontaneous people’s protests. All of them have faced criminalisation; many of them, brutal assaults. It is being subtly communicated that there is no democratic option left in the country. The arrogance of the political class has reached the level where it defiantly challenges people to seek solutions through elections, which have been reduced to a game of money and muscle power. It is very well known that this game is beyond people’s means.

Should people mutely suffer the oppression of their representatives who behave as if they have a licence to exploit them till the next election? Even after five years, what hope does the system hold for ordinary people? The defective game also stands “fixed” by the political class, which virtually bars entry of anyone outside the club. The Association for Democratic Reforms has documented data on the personal wealth and the criminal cases of the members of the political class, which exposes their character. The entire ruling class has consolidated itself against the people. It may demonstrate differences within its ranks before the public to gain legitimacy but the fact remains that its members are all one and the same. Indeed, people are left with no democratic option and hope. It is this state of “optionlessness” and hopelessness that would inevitably push people to unconstitutional methods and, as Ambedkar warned, blast off the structure of democracy our founding fathers so laboriously built.

 

#Irom sharmila- Starving to live, not die #hungerstrike #AFSPA


March 30, 2013 , The Hindu

Goutham Shivshankar
Suhrith Parthasarathy

TOPICS
When the Supreme Court has recognised the right to go on hunger strike, why is Irom Sharmila’s protest against impunity of the armed forces a criminal act?

Over the past 12 years, Irom Sharmila Chanu has carried on an inconceivable hunger strike, which has seen her body wither and her skin turn pale. During this period, she has emerged as the face of the civilian resistance to the immunity, and impunity, granted by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act to the army in Manipur. The Indian state has done its part to disfigure that face, by exhibiting either an inability or unwillingness to meet Sharmila’s demands. Today, it is impossible to think of Sharmila without recalling images of the feeding tube that has been forcibly thrust down her nose to keep her alive. However, the repeal of AFSPA and justice for the 10 civilians who were shot dead in November 2002 by the Assam Rifles in supposed retaliation to an attack by insurgents in Malom, Manipur — which triggered Sharmila’s protest — still remain elusive. Instead, Sharmila’s dissent expressed via her fast unto death has repeatedly been viewed as criminal.

Sharmila has put the Indian state in a peculiar position, by reconfiguring the dynamics of power through a public sacrifice of her body. Should the state, as it has done so far, view her indefinite fast through the lens of criminality and consider it “an attempt to commit suicide,” when Sharmila has unequivocally asserted her love of living? Or is it incongruous to do so, especially when the Supreme Court, in its recent and much-hailed intervention in the Ram Lila Maidan protests against corruption, has recognised that “hunger strike is a form of protest which has been accepted, both historically and legally in our constitutional jurisprudence”? In fact, Sharmila’s hunger strike is an area of stark legal vacuum. When there is a conflict between her freedom of expression and the Indian state’s interest, and perhaps duty, in keeping her alive, can a balance between these conflicting ends be struck without criminalising Sharmila’s actions?

The history

Examples of hunger strikes used as an expression of dissent are copious; the suffragettes used them in their campaign seeking the vote for women in England during the early 20th century. Hunger strikes around the world have typically, though not exclusively, been waged by prisoners. Such was the case when some imprisoned Irish Republicans famously went on a hunger strike in 1981 to protest British rule of Ireland, leading to the death of Bobby Sands and nine others. Prisoners tend to use hunger strikes as a mode of protest, either to advocate a cause disagreeable to the state or to express their dissent against what they believe to be a wrongful conviction. In the former category fall cases like that of Marion Wallace Dunlop, a pioneering suffragette who was sent to prison for printing an extract from the Bill of Rights on the wall of St. Stephen’s Hall in the House of Commons. In prison, Dunlop commenced a hunger strike to continue her protest seeking the right of women to vote. In the latter category fall prisoners like William Coleman, who has been on a hunger strike lasting almost five years in a jail in Connecticut, U.S., to protest what he believes to be his wrongful conviction. Since the global trend has been for persons already imprisoned to resort to a hunger strike, this mode of protest has usually been viewed abroad as a prisoners’ rights issue. The state’s response of force-feeding prisoners has been considered by some as being tantamount to torture and an unacceptable intrusion in the autonomy of the prisoner, akin to rape.

However, India’s own experience with hunger strikes, which has been very well documented, has shown that viewing the issue through a prisoners’ rights framework is ill-advised. Our freedom fighters, Mahatma Gandhi in particular, developed and perfected this non-violent form of protest as a facet of satyagraha, and although several hunger strikes were carried out by freedom fighters during periods of incarceration, the resort to this mode of protest has never been an exclusive domain of the imprisoned. For instance, Potti Sreeramulu, a freedom fighter and Gandhian, fasted to his death, in seeking the creation of a separate State of Andhra Pradesh in independent India. The Narmada Bachao Andolan movement witnessed hunger strikes in 2002 to protest the construction of dams over the Maan River in Dhar, Madhya Pradesh.

More recently, Anna Hazare and his associates carried on hunger strikes against corruption. All of these protests were, and continue to be, carried on for the large part, outside the walls of prison. For this reason, a prisoners’ rights framework may, by itself, be insufficient to view the legality of hunger strikes in India.

Attempted suicide?

An alternative way to analyse hunger strikes, especially fasts unto death, is through the framework of a constitutional right to die. In India, not a little morbidly, this argument seems to have reached a “dead end.” Although the Supreme Court in P. Rathinam v. Union of India (1994) initially asserted that the Indian constitutional guarantee of a fundamental right to life carries with it a fundamental right to die, subsequent decisions in Gian Kaur v. State of Punjab (1996) and Aruna Shanbaug v. Union of India (2011) overruled that view, and it is now conclusively established that Indian citizens do not have a fundamental right to die. In Gian Kaur, the Supreme Court upheld the validity of Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalises the “attempt to commit suicide” (i.e. the provision under which Sharmila has been charged, and previously convicted). In Shanbaug, the Supreme Court allowed only for a highly circumscribed right to approach courts to seek withdrawal of life support systems for patients in a permanent vegetative state. Thus, it appears futile to argue that Indian citizens have a right to fast unto death when, according to the apex court, they have no right to die. However, this does not automatically mean that the undertaking of fasts unto death is criminal or that one does not have a fundamental right to hunger strike of a definite period where there is no danger of death being caused. One may not have the right to do something, but to do it nonetheless needn’t be criminal.

In independent India, the resort to hunger strikes has usually, though with some exceptions (such as the hunger strike by prisoners within a jail), not been viewed through the lens of criminality. For instance, Potti Sreeramulu was never considered criminal or suicidal by the Indian state for his fatal hunger strike. Anna Hazare likewise has undertaken several indefinite hunger strikes for various causes, but has never been perceived as a criminal on this account. The most prominent example of the Indian state criminalising a fast unto death per se is that of Sharmila’s. If we really believe rape is as vile as we have recently claimed it to be, then would it be just to treat Sharmila’s strike against AFSPA, a law that shields rapists from prosecution, differently from Hazare’s strike against corruption? More importantly, would it be just for a society’s laws to selectively criminalise hunger strikes depending upon the objectives such strikes seek to achieve?

This brings us to the question of whether Sharmila’s case, and more generally fasts unto death, are appropriately viewed as “attempts to commit suicide” under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code. Any criminal offence, barring certain exceptions, requires the proof of a mens rea, or the existence of a guilty mind. Sharmila has been fasting not with an intention to die, but with an intention to achieve a desired result from the state. Her refusal to consume food or water can be criminalised only if she has acted in furtherance of a conscious endeavour to commit suicide. In the absence of such conscious endeavour, to accuse and prosecute her for an offence under Section 309 is misconceived.

Freedom to express

The questions of whether to treat Sharmila as criminal and whether the state should be allowed to force-feed her are distinct. As misguided as Sharmila’s prosecution may be, the question regarding the legality of nasally force-feeding her to keep her alive still remains open. The Supreme Court has, on the one hand, held that the threat of going on a hunger strike extended by Baba Ramdev at Ram Lila Maidan, cannot be termed illegal. Presumably, this right that the court spoke of flows from a citizen’s right to freedom of expression. That right is subject to “reasonable restrictions” in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, decency, morality, or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence. If Sharmila’s fast unto death is essentially an exercise of her fundamental right to freedom of expression, the state, in force-feeding her, may presumably be acting in furtherance of its right to impose reasonable restrictions as permitted by our Constitution. However, force-feeding, even if conducted in a humane and largely non-intrusive manner, has been widely considered to be tantamount to torture. Even though the state might merely be imposing restrictions that are reasonable within the meaning of Article 19 of the Constitution, the measure might nonetheless be a violation of Sharmila’s right to life and personal liberty under Article 21.

In our opinion, fasts unto death occupy an area of legal vacuum that offer no easy solutions. Should the state allow Sharmila to die and, in the process, abdicate its duty to protect life? Or must it resort to force-feeding her, even though such actions hit at the core of her bodily integrity? While neither offers a perfectly tailored legal solution, what is certain is that a balance ought to be struck between these starkly conflicting ends without criminalising Sharmila’s actions. For, to do so would be tantamount to stigmatising an exercise by a citizen of her right to freedom of expression in advocating a particular cause when other citizens have used the freedom in exactly the same manner without suffering prosecution, simply because they advocated causes of a different, and less complex, nature.

(The authors are advocates practising in the Madras High Court)

Authorities in India must release #IromSharmila Chanu #AFSPA


by Amnesty International India (Notes) on Wednesday, 20 March 2013 at 17:02

Indian authorities must immediately release Irom Sharmila Chanu – a protester on a prolonged hunger-strike – and drop all charges against her, Amnesty International said today.

 

Irom Sharmila has been on an indefinite fast since November 2000, protesting against the imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the state of Manipur. She was arrested shortly after she began her hunger strike and charged with attempting to commit suicide – a criminal offence under Indian law.

 

Irom Sharmila, was released on 12 March 2013 by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court of Imphal East only to be re-arrested on 14 March and remanded again to judicial custody till 26 March. On 4 March, a Delhi court had also charged Irom Sharmila with attempting to commit suicide in October 2006, when she staged a protest in Delhi for two days.

 

Irom Sharmila has never been brought to trial, but as her alleged offence is punishable by a term of one year only, she has been regularly released upon the completion of such period in judicial custody, only to be re-arrested shortly thereafter as she continues her fast.

 

Sharmila has remained in judicial custody in Manipur over the past twelve years. She is currently held at the security ward of the Jawaharlal Nehru hospital in Imphal, the capital of Manipur, where she is force-fed a diet of liquids through her nose.

 

Sharmila has pleaded not guilty to the charges of attempting to commit suicide, and has said she is holding a non-violent protest.

 

“I do not want to commit suicide. Mine is only a non-violent protest. It is my demand to live as a human being,” Sharmila reportedly told the Delhi court on Monday. “I love life. I do not want to take my life but I want justice and peace.”

 

Although attempting to commit suicide is a bailable offence in India, Sharmila has refused to sign the bail-bonds, maintaining that she had not committed any offence, and has instead called for the criminal charges against her to be dropped.

 

Irom Sharmila has undertaken her hunger strike as a form of protest against the AFSPA. The British Medical Association, in a briefing to the World Medical Association, has clarified that “A hunger strike is not equivalent to suicide. Individuals who embark on hunger strikes aim to achieve goals important to them but generally hope and intend to survive.” This position is embodied by the World Medical Association in its Malta Declaration on Hunger Strikers.

 

Amnesty International has also previously called upon the Government to repeal the AFSPA, which provides impunity for perpetrators of serious human rights violations, including extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, rape and torture.

 

Background

 

Irom Sharmila Chanu began her hunger strike after the killing of 10 Manipuris by the Assam Rifles (a paramilitary force) in Malom, Imphal in November 2000. She demanded the removal of the AFSPA from Manipur. The AFSPA provides for soldiers who are operating in government designated ‘disturbed areas’ the authority to use lethal force against any person contravening laws or orders “prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons” as well as to destroy property, enter and search premises without warrant and arrest in the interest of ‘maintenance of public order’. Soldiers are also protected from any legal proceedings unless such action is sanctioned by the central government.

 

Repeal of the law has also been recommended by a number of national bodies including the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, Jeevan Reddy Commission and the Prime Minister’s Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir. The Justice Verma Committee on Amendments to Criminal Law said in January 2013 that the AFSPA legitimized impunity for sexual violence, and recommended an urgent review of the law.

 

#India- I am Irom Sharmila #AFSPA #Vaw


March 16, 2013

The Other Half

KALPANA SHARMA, The Hindu

Sharmila’s story is extraordinary and bears retelling. Photo: AP
AP Sharmila’s story is extraordinary and bears retelling. Photo: AP

By focusing on individuals like Irom Sharmila, the cause or reason for protest is often forgotten. In this particular case, the cause — repeal of the AFSPA — is crucial.

She appears in our line of vision, and then disappears. When we see her, we remember. When we don’t, we forget.

When Irom Sharmila, that frail woman from Manipur, with a feeding tube taped to her nose, was asked to travel to Delhi earlier this month, it was “news”. Her name was in the newspapers, her image on television channels. Yet, how many people really knew why she had been brought to Delhi, why after six years had a court summoned her to face charges under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code for attempting to commit suicide?

In 2006, Sharmila travelled to Delhi for the first time in her life. In fact, it was the first time she sat in an airplane. Then she had travelled to Delhi by choice. She did so because she reckoned, and rightly so, that her voice would only be heard if she went to Delhi. And she was not wrong. As she sat at Jantar Mantar, continuing a protest that began on November 2, 2000 demanding the withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Manipur, the “national” media paid heed to her voice, and relayed it to a wider audience.

And how did the authorities respond? By charging her for attempting to commit suicide and force-feeding her. Eventually, Sharmila returned to her hospital jail in Imphal, where she is forcibly fed through that tube in her nose. She has remained in that room, a year at a time. A court in Imphal charges her under the same section of IPC, imprisons her for a year, the maximum sentence, releases her, and then arrests her again when she refuses to break her fast. Every year, around this time, this little drama is enacted. The local press takes note; the national press generally ignores it. And Sharmila continues to protest.

Now, in addition to the court in Imphal, Sharmila has to face the court in Delhi. When she appeared earlier this month, she told the judge: “I love and respect life. I want the right to live as a human being. Mine is a non-violent protest to get the government to meet my demands.” This does not sound like a woman who wants to kill herself. Yet, the law says she does, because she will not eat. And so this case will also continue. And once again, on May 22, she will be brought to Delhi. And we will have another chance to remember who she is, what she stands for, and what she is asking.

Sharmila’s story is extraordinary and bears retelling. Several books have already been written about her, the latest by journalist Minnie Vaid titled, Iron Irom, Two Journeys. It is a slim book that recounts Sharmila’s journey and Vaid’s own journey into Manipur, a place “where the abnormal is normal”, as she aptly puts it. But even as Sharmila’s trials, determination and amazing courage are remembered, and lauded, one should not lose sight of the central issue over which she is so agitated.

In India, we elevate individuals and forget the cause. We need heroes and heroines, more so at a time of visual media. But in fixing on individuals, the issue, the cause, the reason for protest sometimes gets forgotten, or under-played.

In the case of Sharmila’s fast, the issue is crucial. AFSPA has been in force since 1958. The army insists it is essential; for the civilian population it means the denial of basic rights and nurtures a culture of impunity in everyone with power.

If you go to Manipur, you will understand why Sharmila will not relent. They do not have the freedom we take for granted. Nor the basic infrastructure. Daily life is incredibly difficult. There are shortages of every kind — water, electricity, fuel, food, medicines. Not for a week, or a month, but for years. Those of us living in so-called “undisturbed” areas do not have a clue what life is like for the ordinary Manipuri, someone who wants to lead a normal life, a peaceful one, without bomb blasts or armed men patrolling the streets or curfews or extra-judicial killings in broad daylight.

Manipuris escape this hardship by running away to our big cities. Thousands of them have joined the service sector. Does anyone ask them about Manipur? Do people even know they are from Manipur? People like them, living on the periphery, are constantly lectured about “integrating” with India. It is India and Indians who need to “integrate” with the northeast and Manipur and not the other way round.

Eight years ago, in 2005, the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee, set up to review AFSPA in Manipur by an earlier version of the government at the Centre, submitted its report. It recommended that AFSPA be withdrawn. The government paid no heed.

More recently, the Justice Verma Committee, set up after the Delhi gang rape, strongly recommended that the provision in AFSPA that grants armed forces personnel immunity from facing rape charges in a civilian court, be removed. Once again, this escaped a hearing-impaired government.

What will it take for the deafness of the government, and its obduracy, to give way to a listening ear and an open mind on the issue? How many Sharmilas will it take? Should all of us who care, who feel outraged at this state of affairs, decide to become Sharmilas?

 

Irom Sharmila Re-Arrested, Continues Her Fast Unto Death Demanding Repeal Of #AFSPA #Vaw


 

Irom Sharmila was released on Tuesday by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Imphal East after completing one year imprisonment. She refused to give up her fast and was re-arrested by the Porompat police
Shazia Nigar

March 14, 2013

‘I will not adopt a re-conciliatory position. Nothing will change my stand and I will continue to fast until my demand is fulfilled,’ said Irom Sharmila. Photo: Ankit Agarwal

Iron LadyIrom Sharmila Chanu has been arrested once again on charges of attempted suicide. She has been on fast unto death for twelve years demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. The maximum punishment the charge is imprisonment up to one year.

Babloo Loitongbam, Human Right activist and an associate of Irom Sharmila said, “She was picked up from the site of protest at the Save Sharmila office in Imphal.”

Sharmila had been released on Tuesday by the Chief Judicial Magistrate Court in Imphal East after completing one year imprisonment. She refused to give up her fast and was re-arrested by the Porompat police. Before being produced to court, Sharmila was remanded to judicial custody until 26 March. She is currently in the security ward at the Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital in Imphal.

Sharmila’s brother, Irom Singhajit said that a medical team showed up at the site of protest demanding a medical check-up that she denied. Police picked her up later at six in the evening. Singhajit said, “I meet her every fifteen days when she is produced in court. The family requires a special permission to see her. It takes one month for a permission to be granted.”

Commenting on her fast unto death in a recent interview with TEHELKA, Sharmila said, “Although it’s been over 12 years, I will not adopt a re-conciliatory position. Nothing will change my stand and I will continue to fast until my demand is fulfilled. Nothing will shake my resistance.”

Irom Sharmila has been fasting since November 2000 when ten civilians were killed in an alleged encounter by the Assam Rifles near Imphal airport. AFSPA was imposed in Manipur in 1980.

 

Iron Irom’s long protest penned #AFPSA #Vaw #Womenrights


DNA Correspondent l @DNA

abhaydeol

( pic courtesy- Nitesh Mohanty at the kitab khana event)

A book on Irom Sharmila reiterates the cause she is fighting for.

“Irom’s story has been written in a first-person account and in a non-intellectual way so that people can easily understand and get involved in her cause,” said writer and filmmaker Minnie Vaid.

The book by Vaid, Iron Irom: Two journeys, was released at Kitab Khana on Friday.

“The book is an introduction to Manipur and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the army atrocities because of it. No amount of books written on her are enough. People need to think about her and engage with her issues. The movement has to be to repeal AFSPA,” Vaid said.

Irom, who hails from the strife-torn state of Manipur, has been on a hunger strike for the last 12 years and has urged the government to repeal the draconian law AFSPA after she saw the body of her best friend raped by the members of the Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian Army at an army camp in Imphal.

Irom, a poet, is also the world’s longest hunger striker.

The Root, which had organised the event, had displayed 60 postcards from India and abroad for Irom. “These were to send her a message that she is not forgotten in a land of busy people,” said Nitesh Mohantay of The Root.

The book was released by actor Abhay Deol.

Irom sharmila will not Adopt a Reconciliatory Position until the # AFSPA Is Repealed #Vaw


Irom Sharmila Chanu, who has been on a 12-year fast demanding the repeal of the AFSPA, was in Delhi on 4 March, where a Delhi court charged her with an attempt to commit suicide during her fast unto death at Jantar Mantar in October 2006. In a brief interview after her trial, she spoke to Nupur Sonar about her struggle

March 5, 2013

Civil rights activist Irom Sharmila. Photo: Ankit Agarwal

Are you unhappy with the charges leveled against you?

I am very disappointed about the case against me. Being brought to Delhi for the trial, I am wondering what is happening to me. They try to divert my mind. They try to weaken my spirit. Yet, in another sense, I am also very hopeful. If the government sees me as an Indian citizen and yet treats me this way, then this is a clear example of the discrimination that exits in India. After all, I am just following Gandhiji’s principles to achieve my goals. I am using a positive way for the movement, to fulfill my demand.

What do you think of the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations on safety of women and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act

I was happy about the Justice Verma Committee’s recommendations, but our democratic government needs to put in collective effort to undo the wrong they have done. I think what the government has decided is wrong. The Army should be controlled by the government and should follow the law. They should respect the Committee’s recommendations. I don’t want to be a critic, I am just talking on the basis of my observation of what has been going on for many years. I see how north-eastern students in colleges are attacked and this happens very frequently. I am extremely unhappy with the foundation of the AFSPA and how it works. The government is trying to suppress us through the AFSPA. I don’t agree with their tactics. The voice of the people needs to be heard as it is being heard at seminars all over the world.

You have been fighting a lonely battle against the AFSPA for over 12 years now. Have you thought of adopting a reconciliatory position?

Although it’s been over 12 years, I will not adopt a reconciliatory position. Nothing will change my stand and I will continue until my demand is fulfilled. Nothing will shake my resistance.

What gives you the strength to keep going?

It is the solidarity of those who have joined me in my struggle voluntarily that strengthens me. But with the proceedings, it will be very difficult for them to maintain solidarity.

 

Ardent Atmosphere Prevails In Manipur Over Probe Into Extrajudicial Killings #AFSPA


Acknowledging the positive response of Supreme Court towards the families of the victims of extrajudicial executions, family members and human right activists in Manipur are hoping that upcoming independent probe will deliver a long denied justice, and expose the harsh truth of summary killings of innocent and unarmed victims

RK SURESH, Tehelka 

March 4, 2013

The independent probe team led by former SC Justice Santosh Hegde, former Chief ECI JM Lyngdoh and retired Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar reached Imphal on Saturday

In Manipur, families of over 1500 victims of extrajudicial execution are eagerly awaiting justice as the SC appointed Inquiry Committee reached Imphal on Saturday to begin probe into the summary executions of seven unarmed civilians. The independent probe team led by former SC Justice Santosh Hegde, former Chief ECI JM Lyngdoh and retired Karnataka DGP Ajay Kumar reached Imphal on Saturday amid an ardent tone among the public who are eager to find out the truth about 1528 cases of reported fake encounter killings. Laishram Gyaneshori, President of Thangmeiband Women Society observed, “We have been demanding justice for a long time; my appeal to the new probe team is to expose these cruel army personnel and police commandos who have slaughtered our sons.”

Acknowledging the positive response of Supreme Court towards the families of the victims of extrajudicial executions, family members and human right activists are hoping that upcoming independent probe will deliver a long denied justice, and expose the harsh truth of summary killings of innocent and unarmed victims. Ningthoujam Neena Devi, one of the petitioners who filed the PIL on behalf of over 2000 bereaved families said, “My only wish is to let the world know how innocent people in Manipur are reeling under critical human right violations. I have already lost my faith in the system, so I am hoping that humanity itself will save further loss of innocent lives.”

Expressing strong doubts against the credibility and intentions of security personnel engaging in CI Ops in the state, a Supreme Court bench led by Aftab Alam on January 4 had ordered an independent probe in the alleged killings of Chongtham Umakanta, Elangbam Kiranjit, Akoijam Priyobrata, Kh Orsonjit, Phisubam Md Azad and cousins Nameirakpam Nobo and Nameirakpam Gobin. In revealing information from fact finding NGOs, there seemed to be serious doubts on the authenticity of report filed by the security force about the encounter killings of Elangbam Kiranjit and Chongtham Umakanta. According to findings of the respective district magistrates, both murders were committed at the same place and under same circumstance to another established fake encounter of L Satish. According to post mortem reports, both victims had severe torture marks which were perpetrated before shooting them. Even the Supreme Court seemed to have similar views on the rest of the victims in the six cases to be probed. “How can a 12 year old be a terrorist?” was the remark of Justice Ranjana citing the killing of Md Azad on 4 March 2009. Substantiating doubts, Azad’s teacher at thePhubakchaoHigh Schoolwho witnessed his student being gruesomely murdered said, “I saw Azad being pushed and kicked at back by the commandoes and dragged to the paddy field in full view of half the villagers. In a shocking turn of event, two of the police commandos who were standing behind fired at the boy when he begged for his life with folded palms. The boy began writhing violently from the bullet shots. It was extremely painful to watch so shouted at the police to stop. In response, the police commandos fired another shot at the boy after which the writhing ceased.” More than a dozen people claimed that they saw the ruthless killing of the child by security personnel.

An ardent atmosphere prevails within and outside Manipur with high expectations to find out the facts about the existence of state sponsored genocide in the name of counter insurgency. Right now, Manipur is in chaos where human lives have no value; we are falling into a deep abyss of darkness and fear. As a mother, I strongly appeal the concerned authority to save our children and future generations from this futile slaughtering,” appealed Soibam Momon, the co-convenor of Sharmila Kanba Lup. For people like Kh Lata, mother of Kh Orsonjit, positive feedback from the SC has given hope of fulfilling justice which was denied for all these years. Lata Devi expressed, “I always knew that my son was innocent, but my plea for justice have been ignored by the government and all concerned authority till now. My 19 year old son was a mere supplier of generator fuel for Tata Indicom Towers; the police tortured and killed him for the money he was carrying.”

In the hearing on January 4, the SC also assured to probe the validity of AFSPA, while conveying its cognizance against the extrajudicial impunity of security forces in Manipur. A public notice issued by the Secretary of the Inquiry Committee, PS Moorthy also urged willing individuals to file their affidavits to corroborate previous cases of extrajudicial executions and other excess acts of the armed forces under AFSPA by evening of 3 March. In this regard, RTI activist and Chairperson of HRI, Mr Joykumar expressed discontentment over the short duration given by the commission for submission of affidavits. HRI Chairman also sought a special witness protection policy from the concerned central authority, so that more petitioners can file their affidavits without apprehension. Judging from the information received so far, Joykumar’s observation seemed to be reasonable even as 32 writ petitions have been filed to the commission on behalf of the security personnel involved, while only seven affidavits have been received from the victims’ side till filing of this report.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen woman activists, family members and kins of many victims have also filed affidavits on Sunday to re-open investigation into the killings of their loved ones by security personnel under suspicious circumstances. Among the petitioner was young Yumnam Abhisek who lost two of his brother, Yumnam Inaocha in 1997 and Yumnam Bhumi in 2005.

Activist and President of All Manipur Khunai Kanba Lup (AMKIL) Phanjoubam Shakhi Devi  stated, “A boy was snatched from his mother’s arms at the dead of the night and then beaten to an inch of his life, while the mother and the victim’s brother watched helplessly. Then he was shot at the courtyard in front of their eyes; such is the madness.”

Mutum Ibemhal, another petitioner added, “I have seen many inquiries and investigations, but till now we have not heard those criminals in uniforms being punished according to law. But this time, I am hoping that justice will be served. Therefore my humble request to the three member commission is to expose nothing, but the truth that we have been witnessing so that the security personnel are given appropriate punishment.”

Meanwhile, apprehension still runs high among many people about the upcoming independent probe. One such individual, Thokchom Ramani Devi, the General Secretary of the All Manipur Social Reform and Development Samaj expressed strong doubts that justice will be served citing many previous inquiries where hundreds of security personnel were convicted of summary killings, rapes and other human rights violation, but it is yet to confirm whether they were punished or not.

“In the name of AFSPA and other black laws, the security forces has committed extreme crimes like the forced disappearances of Yumlembam Sanamacha, Rajkumar Lokendro. A woman was raped in front of her paralysed husband and another tribal lady was raped in full view of her in-laws. These are pure facts and there were witnesses, but nothing was done against the culprit. Many inquiries have been done and concluded and I highly doubt the upcoming independent probe will be fruitfull,” said Thokchom Ramani.

It may be mentioned that the SC bench led by Justice Aftab Alam was instrumental in booking the culprits involved in Ishrat Jehan fake encounter killings during the 2004Gujaratriot. In a hearing on December 6, 2012, the bench led by Justice Aftab Alam and Ranjana Prakash Desai had already acknowledged that the situation in Manipur is not normal and that a probe is needed into various encounter killings in Manipur. An earlier ruling from the special bench had also rapped the attitude of the Union Home Ministry and the CM Ibobi Singh led Manipur Government on the unabated allegations of extrajudicial killings, while raising serious concern on the futility of the National Human Rights Commission to provide any information.

 

 

Government scared to grant me my fundamental rights: Irom Sharmila #AFSPA #Vaw


by  Mar 4, 2013, Firstpost

“The government will listen. It depends on the movement of the people because we are a democracy. What I want is peace and justice, not the administration of a government that uses violence as a means for their governance,” said a frail and emotional Irom Sharmila, addressing the media outside a Delhi Court, which has charged her with attempt to commit suicide. (Read full report here)

Sharmila continues to persevere with her more than 12-year long struggle for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFPSA). On a protest fast since 2000, she is force fed via tube at a government hospital in Imphal, Manipur, where she remains in custody and denied free access to her family, friends and supporters.

Sharmila has been charged by the Delhi court in a 2006 case that was booked against her by the Delhi Police after she declared a fast unto death from Jantar Mantar. Described as the Iron Lady of Manipur, Sharmila pleaded not guilty to the charge of attempt to commit suicide before the Delhi Court. The next date of hearing has been fixed for May 22.

On request by her lawyers, Sharmila was permitted by the Delhi Court to a five-minute interaction with the press.

PTIPTI

Responding to question regarding the government’s stand that repeal of the AFSPA depended on the Army’s assessment of the ground realities, Sharmila said, “The government and the Army are colluding to cheat the people. The government is of the people, by the people and for the people. The government should control the Army also.”

On whether she had requested the government to permit her family and supporters free access to her, she said, “They are so scared to give me my fundamental rights. I am also a social being. I am innocent woman who loves civilization.”

When asked whether she had faith in the legal system and the central government, she said, “I have in faith in God. God will also guide the wrong-doers. I will remind them that of their real responsibility as a leaders of a society.”

Reacting to a question on the setting up of the three-member commission headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Hegde, which has begun hearing cases of alleged extra-judicial killings by security forces, in Manipur, Sharmila said, “The government will remain adamant for the time being. The Jeevan Reddy committee has already recommended the repeal of this draconian law.”

Making a final statement, Sharmila said, “I’m following the non-violent principle of the Father of Nation. The government should not discriminate. As a leadership, they should behave unbiasedly…I have in faith in God. God will also guide the wrong-doers. I will remind them that of their real responsibility as a leaders of a society.”

The Human Rights Law Network (HRLN) is representing Sharmila in Delhi. Speaking to the press, Svetlana, one of her counsels, said, “Now the case will move into the trial stage. If she is unable to come because of her health conditions, we will move an application for exempting her from being present in court. We haven’t filed any application to move the trial to Manipur.”

Outside the Delhi Court, students and supporters staged a protest, shouting slogans seeking the repealing of the law.

Asked what their message to Sharmila was, former president of the Manipur Students Association Delhi, Seram Rojesh said,  “We are here to give solidarity to her. The police denied us permission to meet her. In this struggle, we want to show her that she is not alone. The world is with her. She has done nothing wrong. She is fasting for the right to a dignified life. But she has been charged with 309 of IPC. We are protesting the very idea of charging her.” Rojesh is also the coordinator of the Save Democracy, Repeal AFPSA Campaign.

 

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