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By Pashchiema Bhatia
When Anna Hazare began his hunger strike, he became the centre of media attention and everybody was concerned about his life. He stimulated the whole nation to support his cause. A 42 year old lady of Manipur who is fasting since 2 November, 2000, is demanding to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Irom Sharmila, the Iron lady of Manipur, who has not drunk a single drop of water since November, 2000, never got the media coverage to this extent. Is she not a human? Then why nobody is concerned about her life? May be because she belongs to north-east, the part of India about which nobody is concerned.
Under this act, all the army men are provided with unrestrained powers to arrest or to shoot or to kill anyone just on the basis of mere suspicion that the person is acting against the state or might be linked to some terrorists groups. This act is applicable to the seven sister states of north-east (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura) which has suffered insurgency, tribal-warfare including terrorism. A similar act is imposed in Jammu and Kashmir.
I respect the army men and I am obliged that they suffer for the purpose of our security. Officers deployed in Siachen suffer a lot but still they work. But giving unrestrained powers to them is problematic.
Irom Chanu Shramila grew up in Manipur. She is a civil rights as well as political activist. She began a hunger strike on November, 2000, after the Malom Massacre, when 10 civilian were shot allegedly by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary forces operating in the state. Later the encounters were alleged to be fake and Manipur High Court ordered 5 lakhs compensation for each of the families of the 10 people who were killed. Irom said, “I was shocked to see the dead bodies. There was no means to stop further violations by the armed forces. Fast is the most effective way because it is based on a spiritual fight. My fast is on behalf of the people of Manipur. This is not a personal battle, it is symbolic. It is a symbol of truth, love and peace”. Irom has been forcibly kept alive by nasogastric tubation. She had been arrested several times on the charges of ‘attempt to suicide’ but since the maximum sentence cannot exceed one year she is released by the court after the completion of one year and is re-arrested on the same charges within 2-3 days of her release. Police justifies this by saying that they are concerned about her and they cannot see her die but arresting and re-arresting has been the only concern of the authorities.
On July 2004, Thangjam Manorama, a Manipuri woman was picked up from her home by Indian paramilitary unit on some uncertain allegations of being associated with People’s Liberation Army. Next day, her dead body was found and the post-mortem report revealed that she was raped. After the Nirbhaya case, the whole nation was criticising the culprits but the brutal rape case of Thangjam Manorama came to light only after the protests of Manipuri women standing naked in front of Assam Rifles Headquarters with banners proclaiming, ‘Come Indian Army, Rape Us’. Watch this video: @youtube video on protests in Manipur
When AFSPA was imposed, it was supposed to be a temporary law but now it’s been 60 years, it still persists. The aim of AFSPA was to bring normalcy but now it appears that AFSPA has changed the definition of normalcy. There are several cases of mysterious disappearances of people, fake encounters and rapes which are reported. I believe that if we want to know the relevance of an act we must inquire into the improvements which it has brought in. When AFSPA was imposed there were two insurgent groups and now there are at least 40 insurgent groups. Instead of being a solution it has probably encouraged more people to take up arms. The army won’t oppose it as it provides unrestrained powers to them and thinking about the State government, AFSPA attracts funds from the Centre. It’s an escape route for the Centre to hide administrative failures in these areas.
I agree that some relevant police force must be there to tackle the insurgency but there should be some control over the uncontrolled powers given to the army. The government must ensure that no one is misusing the powers. Either a new act should replace AFSPA and come into being or it should be revoked because it is violating the human rights.
In the era of rising intolerance, it is Irom Sharmila who still has faith in peace and democracy. She says that she wants to eat rice from her mother’s hand after the withdrawal of AFSPA. She is a living legend of non-violence and history will remember her.
Pashchiema is an intern at NewsGram and a student of journalism and mass communication in New Delhi. Twitter: @pashchiema5
The niece of Japanese Emperor Naruhito, Princess Mako, married a commoner Tuesday, relinquishing her royal status following a heavily scrutinized, controversial four-year engagement.
The Japanese Imperial Household Agency issued a statement announcing the marriage of Mako to Kei Komuro, both 30 years old.
The couple broke with tradition by foregoing the usual rituals and ceremonies of royal weddings, including a reception, while Mako also refused the one-off payment of about $1.3 million typically made to royal women who leave the imperial family to marry.
The couple had been classmates at Tokyo's International Christian University when they announced their engagement in 2017, saying they intended to marry the next year.
But shortly after the announcement, a dispute involving money Komuro's mother, a widow, had received from a former suiter surfaced and the wedding was postponed. Komuro wrote a lengthy statement explaining the situation, and but it is still unclear if the dispute has been fully resolved.
Komuro spent the last three years at law school in New York City, where The New York Times reports tabloid newspapers documented everything from his hairstyle to the food trucks where he bought his lunch.
At a news conference, the former princess addressed the controversies, gossip and mixed public opinion about the relationship, saying, "I am very sorry to the people who had trouble (with our marriage). Also, I feel gratitude towards people who cared and quietly worried about me, or people who were not misled by the non-factual information and still continued to support me and Kei."
The couple expressed their love for one another, and Mako said, "As we go on with our lives, I think there will be different difficulties. But as we have in the past, we will work together and continue to move on together."
The couple plans to live in New York City. (VOA/RN)
Keywords: Japan, Princess Mako, Komuro, Marriage, Royals
WASHINGTON — U.S. federal law enforcement agencies and Europol announced dozens of arrests to break up a global operation that sold illegal drugs using a shadowy realm of the internet.
At a Department of Justice news conference Tuesday in Washington, officials said they arrested 150 people for allegedly selling illicit drugs, including fake prescription opioids and cocaine, over the so-called darknet. Those charged are alleged to have carried out tens of thousands of illegal sales using a part of the internet that is accessible only by using specialized anonymity tools.
The 10-month dragnet called "Operation HunTor" — named after encrypted internet tools — resulted in the seizure of 234 kilograms of drugs, including amphetamines, cocaine and opioids worth more than $31 million. Officials said many of the confiscated drugs were fake prescription pills laced with the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl. The counterfeit tablets are linked to a wave of drug overdoses.
"This international law enforcement operation spanned across three continents and sends one clear message to those hiding on the darknet peddling illegal drugs: there is no dark internet," said U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.
Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco speaks during a news at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
Investigators rounded up and arrested 65 people in the United States. Other arrests occurred in Australia, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. In addition to counterfeit medicine, authorities also confiscated more than 200,000 ecstasy, fentanyl, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and methamphetamine pills.
"We face new and increasingly dangerous threats as drug traffickers expand into the digital world and use the darknet to sell dangerous drugs like fentanyl and methamphetamine," said Anne Milgram, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). "We cannot stress enough the danger of these substances."
The international police agency Europol worked alongside the U.S. Justice Department's Joint Criminal Opioid and Darknet Enforcement team.
"No one is beyond the reach of the law, even on the dark web," said Jean-Philippe Lecouffe, Europol's deputy executive director.
The dark web is preferred by criminal networks who want to keep their internet activities private and anonymous. In this case, it served as a platform for illegal cyber sales of counterfeit medication and other drugs that were delivered by private shipping companies.
Investigators said the fake drugs are primarily made in laboratories in Mexico using chemicals imported from China. Prosecutors also targeted drug dealers who operated home labs to manufacture fake prescription pain pills.
FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate, second from left, speaks during a news conference at the Department of Justice in Washington, Oct. 26, 2021. Photo credit: VOA
"Those purchasing drugs through the darknet often don't know what they're getting," Associate Deputy FBI Director Paul Abbate said. The joint investigation followed enforcement efforts in January in which authorities shut down "DarkMarket," the world's largest illegal international marketplace on the dark web.
Last month, the DEA warned Americans that international and domestic drug dealers were flooding the country with fake pills, driving the U.S. overdose crisis. The agency confiscated more the 9.5 million potentially lethal pills in the last year.
More than 93,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2020, the highest number on record, according the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. U.S. health officials attribute the rise to the use of fentanyl, which can be 100 times more potent than morphine.
U.S. officials said investigations are continuing and more arrests are expected. (VOA/RN)
(This article is originally wriiten by Chris Simkins)
Keywords: Drug Vendors, Investigation, DEA, Illegal purchase, Police Operation, Internet
Facebook-owned WhatsApp may soon ask users to verify their identity to make payments on the platform. According to XDA Developers, new strings spotted in the latest WhatsApp beta release suggest that the messenger will require users to upload verification documents to continue using payments on WhatsApp. Currently, when users set up WhatsApp Pay in India, the service only verifies the phone number linked to your bank account to enable UPI-based transactions. In Brazil, the messenger uses Facebook Pay to validate users' credit or debit cards to facilitate payments.
At the moment, the service doesn't require users to submit any identity verification documents to make payments. However, that might change soon, the report said. WhatsApp v188.8.131.52 beta includes a few new strings which suggest that users might have to submit identity verification documents to continue using payments.
The identity verification might be limited to those who use WhatsApp Pay to receive payments for their businesses. UPI-based apps, like Google Pay, PhonePe and even WhatsApp Pay don't require users to submit any documents to transfer or receive money. However, wallet apps like PayTM do ask for KYC verification as per RBI guidelines.
WhatsApp is yet to make an official announcement regarding this change. Since the new strings have just made their way to the beta version, it might be a while before the company reveals any details, the report said. (IANS/ MBI)
Keywords: WhatsApp, UPI, payments, verify, identity, documents