Shillong: The North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF), a civil rights group has demanded immediate release of Irom Sharmila, who on Monday has completed 15 years of indefinite fast for repealing Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
“We strongly demand from the Indian government for the immediate release of Irom Sharmila and repeal of the controversial AFSPA from the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir,” NEDF Consultant, P.B.M. Basaiawmoit told journalists on Monday.
Dubbed the “Iron Lady of Manipur”, Sharmila began her fast on November 2, 2000, after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop near her home.
The 43-year-old Manipuri was then arrested shortly after beginning her protest — on charges of attempted suicide. She was sent to a prison hospital in Imphal where began a daily routine of being force-fed via a nasal drip.
Sharmila is currently lodged in an isolated room of Manipur’s Jawaharlal Nehru Hospital.
Basaiawmoit said that the central government should start introspect with regards to the implementation of AFSPA in the northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir to ensure that there is no room for ‘indefinite military rule’ in a democratic set up.
The forum also urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to investigate all cases of extra-judicial death and sexual violence against Thangjam Manorama in the custody of Assam Rifles in June, 2004 and punish those involved as per the law.
AFSPA enables security forces to shoot at sight and arrest anybody without a warrant if an area is declared disturbed.
“The central government has been castigating Pakistan, where the final authority is the army but it is similar here where the AFSPA is being invoked in the seven states of the northeast, where the army is exempted from judicial account for its act against anyone they suspect as militants,” Basaiawmoit said.
Recalling that several committees including the UN Special Rapporteur, Justice B.P.Jeevan Reddy Committee and Santosh Committee had recommended the central government to repeal AFSPA, Basaiawmoit rued over the silence of the government on the matter.
“The army rule has no room in a democratic set up since that there are other laws to deal with several issues concerning the law and order situation in the state. We do not understand why this draconian act still exist and who gains from this (AFSPA),” he said.
The AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant special powers and immunity from prosecution to security forces to deal with raging insurgency in the northeastern states — in large parts of Manipur, Tripura, Assam and Nagaland and some parts of Meghalaya and in Jammu and Kashmir.
The act is targeted by local human rights groups and international campaigners such as Amnesty International, which say the law has been an excuse for extrajudicial killings.
However, army officials dealing in counter-insurgency operations have maintained that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to repeal or continue the act.
Several human rights groups, including the powerful North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), have also been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA from the northeastern region.
India prides itself on its so called diversity but these are just plain talks. The real situation on the ground is terrible for all Northeasterners, especially womenfolk. People from Northeast are racially abused by mainland Indians as "chinkis" This derogatory term means an individual with slanted eyes.
The author spent several years in Delhi and sadly witnessed numerous unfortunate incidents in Delhi involving shoddy treatment of Northeast women and girls especially by Jats of urban villages like Katwaria Sarai, Ber Sarai and Munirka.
Northeastern states of India comprises of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim & Mizoram. This region is also referred to as the Seven Sisters. The physical characteristics of the inhabitants of these states are different than the Indian people. Due to which they face racial discrimination in other parts of the country.
Northeasterners have oriental looks and are hard-working, friendly people. Matriarchy is practised among many groups in the Northeast. Successive Indian governments neglected this whole region, as a result it has stayed backwards in terms of infrastructure.
Tourists need special permits from the government authorities to visit many regions of Northeast India. In 1958, the Indian government passed a law, the Armed Forces Special Act (AFSPA) that applies to various seven Northeastern states. This grants security forces the power to search properties without a warrant, to arrest people and to use deadly force if there is “reasonable suspicion” that a person is acting against the state.
Army officers have legal immunity for their actions as per AFSPA; there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law. Indian army frequently misuses its power by harassing the residents of Northeast region under the pretext of this draconian law.
Social Exclusion of the Seven Sisters
An activist from Manipur, Irom Chanu Sharmila holds the world record as the longest hunger striker”. Sharmila grew up in Manipur, one of the Seven Sister States in India’s northeast, which has suffered from continuous neglect by the Indian government for decades.
Sharmila’s primary demand to the Indian government has been the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).
She started her fast in Malom on 5 November 2000 and vowed not to eat, drink, comb her hair or look in a mirror until AFSPA was repealed. She ended her hunger strike on 9 August 2016 after 16 years of fasting. Sadly, AFSPA is still in force. Ordinary people of Northeast India are tormented by Delhi through its army.
No major industry exists in this region, therefore, the employment prospects for the locals are practically non-existent. Basic infrastructure like roads and electricity supply is not up to the mark in this area. Youngsters from these parts migrate to big cities of India like Delhi, Bombay, Bangalore etc. to find jobs.
The women of North East are good looking and fashion conscious. Majority of Indian males are sexually frustrated perverts. They harass Northeast women on a daily basis. People from Northeast are racially abused by mainland Indians as “chinkis”, This derogatory term means an individual with slanted eyes.
The same abusive word is also used by the majority of Indians while referring to the Chinese citizens. State of affairs is dreadful in New Delhi, which is the capital city of India. Delhi has many localities known as Urban Villages. These places are just villages in a name. They do not have any farming land.
Owners of houses in these neighborhoods have got tall buildings erected by flouting all building laws, regulations in order to build the maximum number of rooms and put them on rent to earn easy tax-free cash. Northeast migrants to Delhi are overcharged higher rents by these deceitful landlords.
Urban villages, especially in areas around South Delhi are dominated in particular by a community known as ‘Jats’. They own most of the houses in these parts.
The Jat community comprises of male chauvinists of the worst kind on this planet. They earn huge tax-free income every month as rent from Northeasterners and other migrants to Delhi; as a result, most of them don’t do much productive work. They just sit in groups, play cards and drink liquor from morning-night.
All Indian political parties are scared of Jats as they resort to hooliganism to blackmail central as well as state governments in order to get concessions for their community.
These Jat men have made the life of Northeastern women in Delhi a living hell. These Northeastern women cannot go back to their homes in Northeast because they face sexual violence at the hands of Indian army personnel furthermore; there are no job prospects in the region. They are teased, sexually harassed and even raped by these unscrupulous Jat house owners and their family members.
Delhi Police also has plenty of Jat personnel so, these poor, unfortunate Northeast women cannot even complain about their ordeal to the Police.
A few women, who gather the courage to approach police stations to lodge complaints are ridiculed and abused by the Police staff as women of loose character, ‘chinki whores’ etc.
Northeasterners are highly depressed and frustrated due to this daily ordeal. Their culture, language, food habits and norms are all entirely different from the mainland Indians.
Does Unity in Diversity really exist in India?
India prides itself on its so called diversity but these are just plain talks. The real situation on the ground is terrible for all Northeasterners, especially womenfolk.
The citizens of all seven Northeastern states should not tolerate this discrimination anymore. They must pressurize their local politicians to raise this matter seriously with the central government in Delhi alternatively, they could completely boycott their so called political representatives.
“No taxation without representation”, this slogan originated during the 1750’s and 1760’s in U.S.A. It summarized the primary grievance of American colonists in the thirteen colonies against the British Parliament. This ultimately culminated in the successful American Revolution.
No voting without safety & respect
Northeastern citizens across the entire length and breadth of India should unite under the slogan; “No voting without safety & respect.”
Election Commission of India has introduced NOTA (None of the above) on the ballot papers as an option for the voters. It means that the voter does not find any political party’s candidate competent enough, that’s why they exercise the NOTA option by not voting for a candidate of any political party.
If, the ordinary residents of all seven northeastern states unite together and press NOTA during all state assembly as well as Parliamentary elections, then their local politicians, as well as political parties in Delhi, would definitely wake up to their serious grievances and initiate measures to prevent this dastardly treatment meted out to Northeast citizens in India.
Footnote– This composition is dedicated to three beautiful, kind, compassionate, independent & friendly girls from Northeast India. Suzie, Tanya and Mikii were friends of the author in Delhi during the late 1990’s before we lost contact with each other. These girls were unfortunate victims of numerous atrocities perpetrated on them by Jats.
The writer sincerely hopes that all three of them are presently leading happy, peaceful lives somewhere and women from the Northeast region of India do not face any future trauma in Delhi as well as other cities in India.
– The author is a Master Degree holder in International Tourism & Leisure Studies from Netherlands and is based in China.
June 19 marks the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict
UN Action Against Sexual Violence states that women and children are the worst victims of any violence in the world
Kashmiri women are the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the entire world. 11.6% women in Kashmir Valley have to face of sexual assault and 1 in 7 become victims of rape
– by Supreet Aneja
June 20, 2017: June 19 marks the International Day for Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict. With increasing conflict in the world, the number of sexual cases in such areas are alarming. Whether the conflict is between two people or two countries, women are always the first victims.
UN Action against Sexual Violence states that women and children are the worst victims of any violence in the world. Talking about India, the horrifying cases of sexual abuse against women and children in conflict zones like Chhattisgarh, Kashmir, and Manipur leave one in a sense of shock.
A recent rape case of 14 years old girl on April 2, 2017, in Bijapur district of Chhattisgarh is one such example, in which security forces while using their power left the poor girl in trauma. This is not the only case.
In a report by National Human Rights Commission in January 2017, it stated about the sexual assault of 16 tribal women between 16th and October 25, 2015. NHRC held the Chhattisgarh Government responsible for the same but the government had sidelined these cases saying that such cases are measures to defame the police forces.
Well, other than Chhattisgarh, the situation in Kashmir is also terrifying. According to the Medicines Sans Frontiers Report of 2005, Kashmiri women are the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the entire world. 11.6% women in Kashmir Valley have to face of sexual assault and 1 in 7 become victims of rape. Government figures reveal that between 2015 and 2016, 595 cases of rape were reported in Jammu and Kashmir.
The sad part is that these figures reveal only those cases that are reported. More than half the cases never come out because of factors like fear of the society and the power of the forces. Human Rights Organisations like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, have time and again pressurized India to repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives unlimited powers and impunity to the armed forces.
The Secretary of All India Women’s Association, Kavita Krishnan, on the day of International Elimination of Sexual Violence in Conflict shares how government instead of repealing an act like AFSPA, calls such activists anti- nationals. She also emphasizes that the need of the hour is to rouse the conscience of those who don’t live in conflict areas and try to think the plight of the sufferers. And to think if it is nationalist to rape the women in the name of power.
The plight of such unfortunate women, definitely makes us ponder if we are living in the humanitarian world or not. It is that we come forward to stop this epidemic from spreading further. Whether it is in conflict zones or a normal area, done either by security forces or civilians, we should all pledge to stand against sexual violence of any form.
– by Supreet Aneja of Newsgram Twitter: @supreet_aneja
On Tuesday, August 9, Irom Sharmila Manipuri activist ended her 16-year-long fast against the imposition of the “draconian” in her state AFSPA announced that she wants to join politics and become Chief Minister.
Sharmila, who has been on fast unto death since 2000 to demand the lifting of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Manipur, got emotional as she licked some honey to mark the ending of her fast.
Earlier, doctors removed the nasal feeding tube that was used to force feed her.
Speaking to reporters, including from the foreign media, Sharmila said: “I will never forget this moment.”
She said she will use everything in her power to create a positive society and the “foremost will be the removal of this draconian (AFSPA) law”. The AFSPA gives sweeping powers to security forces.
“I want to be the CM of Manipur to help the people,” she said.
Asked to comment on the ongoing protests in Jammu and Kashmir, Sharmila said “Let the Kashmiris have the right of self-determination”.
Asked where she will stay now, Sharmila said she will stay in an ashram. She has been living at the J.N. Institute of Medical Sciences for the last 16 years where she was being fed through a nasal tube.
Her mother Sakhi has refused to meet her while her elder brother I. Shinghajit, in an open letter, made an impassioned appeal to her to continue the fast.
Sharmila said she will see her mother only after AFSPA has been repealed from her state.
Earlier, Sharmila told a court that she wants to end her fast. She was released on bail on Tuesday by L. Tonsing, chief judicial magistrate, Imphal west, where she was produced. She also signed a bond for Rs 10,000.
She told newspersons that she will contest the 2017 assembly elections from Khurai Assembly constituency as an independent.
Reports say that some local and national parties have sent feelers to her. She has not responded yet.
Doctors are not allowing her to eat normal solid food immediately. One doctor said: “As she has been staying away from normal solid food for over 16 years, we have to take a step by step approach. It will take some days for her to resume normal food.”
It was announced that Sharmila will stay in the hospital for the next three days under medical supervision. During the time, she will be administered solid food gradually and her health closely monitored.
Sharmila began her hunger strike in November 2000 following the killing of 10 civilians by security forces.
She was arrested by the Manipur government the same year on charges of attempting to commit suicide.
She has always denied the charge, saying she is using the fast as a weapon.
As the prosecution failed to prove that she was trying to kill herself, the Chief Judicial Magistrate had ordered on February 29, 2016, that she be freed.
She was rearrested on the same charge as she continued the fast.
Sharmila has been appealing to all sections of the people to support her cause. But except for some reporters, there is nobody to meet her when she goes to the court every 15 days. (IANS)