Syd Zarir Hussain (IANS)
Guwahati, December 8, 2006
Over 30 civil rights groups and student organisations in the northeastern states are planning a "mass movement" against an anti-terror law in the region. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), currently enforced in four of the seven northeastern states – Assam, Manipur, Tripura and Nagaland, provides unlimited powers to security forces to shoot on sight and arrest without a warrant.
"We are going to build a mass movement in the region to pressurise New Delhi into repealing the 1958 act, which is nothing but a draconian piece of legislation," Samujjal Bhattacharyya, a member of the All Assam Students' Union (AASU), said.
The AASU, a students' organisation with 500,000 members, is supported by the Apunba Lup, a group of 32 civil rights organisations in Manipur, in its call for launching a joint movement against the act. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had last week said in Manipur's capital Imphal that the act would be amended with "more human" provisions.
"We want the act to go and will not accept any amendment. This act is a scar on democracy and against all tenets of basic human rights," said Apunba Lup spokesman Bimal Singh.
A 35-year-old Manipuri woman was allegedly raped and killed by security forces while in custody last year. Authorities said the woman, an alleged militant, was shot dead while trying to flee.
The death triggered a wave of violence and protests in the region.
"I am not going to withdraw my fast until this black act is repealed in its totality from Manipur," Irom Sharmila, a Manipuri rights activist who has been on a hunger strike against the act for the last six years, was quoted as saying by her brother Singhajit Singh.
Sharmila is currently detained at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi on charges of attempted suicide. "If timely action is not taken to repeal the act, the northeast would be in turmoil," warned P Singh, a rights activist from Manipur. The central government maintains that the anti-terror law was required in Manipur where over 19 rebel armies demand secession, greater autonomy and the right to self-determination.
More than 10,000 people have lost their lives to insurgency in Manipur during the past two decades.