Archive for December 6th, 2009

Peaceful Protest : Does State ever Listen?

6 December 2009
A woman has gone on fast unto death for the repeal of “Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)”. Unparalleled in History, her fast has entered the 10th year. She is alive because State won’t let her die. She began her fast on 4th November 2000. Two days earlier, “A battalion of Assam Rifles had gunned down 10 innocent civilians at a bus-stand in Malom. The local papers published brutal pictures of the bodies the next day, including one of a 62-year old woman, Leisangbam Ibetomi, and 18-year old Sinam Chandramani, a 1988 National Child Bravery Award winner”. It did so enraged by the bombing of their column by an insurgent group. The afspa came into force to fight insurgent groups in Manipur in 1980. Then there were 4 groups. Today there are over 40.
The AFSPA “empowers even the non-commissioned officers of the armed forces to arrest without warrant, to destroy any structure that may be hiding absconders without any verification, to conduct search and seizure without warrant and to shoot even to the causing of death. No legal proceeding against abuse of such arbitrary powers can be initiated without the prior permission of the Central government. While introducing the AFSPA on 18 August 1958, the government accepted it as an emergency measure and it was supposed to have remained in operation only for one year”. Arbitrary powers are unfailingly exercised with arbitrary discretion totally unchecked by fear of being called to account.
Protest erupts in Manipur every time there is an incidence of arbitrary State violence. What made ordinary women of Manipur to parade nakedly in July 2004, an act they wouldn’t even dare to dream, in front of Assam Rifles Imphal unit taunting soldiers to rape them? Desperation! Indignation! Humiliation!
They were protesting against the arrest, torture, rape and murder of Thangjam Manorama Devi – a 32 year Manipuri woman – by Assam Rifles men.
Sharmila has become an icon of peaceful protest against wayward State repression. To understand her struggle is to understand what is wrong with the government, with the society we live in, what is wrong with us? It is a soul searching journey. One may undertake it here “Irom and The Iron in India’s Soul” with Shoma Chaudhary of Tehlka. If you agree with Sharmila at the end of that journey, it is time to ask tough questions of Chidambaram – one who is ready to talk – as to why he has not talked to Sharmila. Her address is known. Her actions are Gandhian in whose name he, this nation, swears. It is far too late not to demand immediate repeal of AFSPA even now.
A Film by Kavita Joshi : My Body My Weapon.
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