Armed Trouble

India has never been in peace with its border states especially Jammu and Kashmir and the North Eastern states. We are frequently made to think about the prevailing anarchy in these states and the quandary surrounding the basic rights provided to the natives of these parts owing to their separatist mentality.
These Border States have been in virtual control of the army since independence because the governments seem unable to be able to cope with twin pressure from both the outsiders in the form of border tension with adjacent nations and from residents of those states as well. This makes it even more troublesome for government to deal with the problems of basic development of these states and thus we see the living standards of people going down, brewing discontent among the larger masses.

These states have to take the help of the army frequently to keep the protests down. This is not a very effective solution but for now, it seems to be the only solution. It becomes evident from the separatist movement in Jammu & Kashmir which grew so strong in the past week that it sent questions and debates reverberating all round the country.

Coverage by the “independent” media makes us think that these situations get handled effectively by the army. But a closer, unbiased look into the regions only suggests the opposite, with army emerging as a hideous villain that seem to have lost all the consideration for the common man. The state of affairs in North Eastern States is only going to worsen if Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is allowed to continue.

AFSPA is the law which is prevailing in North Eastern states in one form or the other since 1956 to curb down Naxal movement since 1958. Under this Act, a non-commissioned army officer of the lowest rank has the power to shoot to kill anybody, to enter and destroy any building and to arrest anyone without a warrant. The officer needs no permission from a superior, is not answerable to anyone, and does not have to justify his action to anyone. Under this Act the affected people have no right to approach the court for redressal.

In effect, the Act has made the people subject to its extraordinary power second-class citizens of the country, who do not even on paper, enjoy the constitutionally guaranteed rights and freedoms supposed to be the due of every citizen.

Since the past few months people in Manipur have been trying to get national consensus on the thought of going to Supreme Court to get this brutal and anarchic law revoked. But the brutalities of army just seem never ending with the latest shameless act of murder of local pastor Zamkholet Khongsai on July 8 and subsequent rape and murder of 32-year-old Manorama on July 11. What should worry us more is that when people finally decided to raise their voices against this inhuman act, they were yet again handled in the “Army” way as the Central Government gave them (Manipur government) all rights to curb the movement in whatever way they wanted. The demand for the repeal of the Act is an old one, and the current protests have a long history. In fact, for the past 45 months, a young Manipuri woman, Irom Sharmila, has become a symbol of this struggle. Sharmila is on a fast-unto-death, demanding the withdrawal of this Act. She has been forcibly fed in hospital, under judicial custody, all this while.

We call ourselves a democratic nation but we seem to overlook the rudimentary definition of democracy which promises equal rights for all regions and people but our own democracy has put these people under virtual Martial act for five decades. Nobody can discredit Indian Army for all the great things it has done in safeguarding the nation against almost all attacks the country has faced but this Act makes Army more of a plague than cure for these people and needs to be revoked as there should be no room for such unjustifiable law which makes its citizens refugees in their own country. Revocation of this law depends on all forms of media and especially on the television media which has to break the shackles of monotony because when it comes to army it only does the patronizing thing.

Indian Army is a great institution that has helped a long way in safeguarding the national integrity and many times has provided cover for jittery decision taking governments and nobody can deny these facts but these black spots need to be removed. People in North Eastern states are really tired of this law and want to live free just like residents of other states. Just like all other citizens, they have high ambitions to take their state to heights of development and this law prevents them from doing all the great things that these people might be capable of. Hence, the law should be revoked in all forms.
Ajeet Singh Shekhawat

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