‘AFSPA empowers military, cannot solve insurgency’: Northeast activists say 1958 law must go

Express News Service

GUWAHATI: Activists across the Northeast singled out the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA as the root cause of human rights violations vis-à-vis alleged extra-judicial and fake encounter killings.

The activists are unanimous that since AFSPA gives unbridled powers to the security forces, this 1958 law must be repealed to help curb the incidents.

The recent civilian killings in Nagaland’s Mon district brought AFSPA into the spotlight. Not just various non-political organisations, activists and opposition parties, even the BJP in Manipur and Nagaland called for its repeal. 

Samuel Jyrwa, who is the chairman of the North East Students’ Organisation, insisted that political issues need to be resolved politically, not militarily.

“A political will is needed to resolve the political problem of Northeast. It is not a military problem but a political problem,” Jyrwa told The New Indian Express.

AFSPA has not been able to solve the problem. On the contrary, it has empowered the military, he said.

“Because of AFSPA, these incidents are taking place. Many extra-judicial killings, fake encounters took place. AFSPA has given them (military) protection and immunity from any prosecution. They can go on killing people with impunity,” he said referring to the Nagaland killings.

Along Longkumer, who is a former editor of Nagaland newspaper “The Morung Express” and currently the convenor of The Naga Rising, said the incidents were taking place due to AFSPA’s draconian nature.

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Since AFSPA was enacted to deal with the “so-called Naga insurgency”, the Naga problem must be resolved first.

“The Government of India must get serious and take a political initiative towards an honourable and mutually-acceptable solution. To do this, Delhi should be sincere and honest in acknowledging the history and situation of the Naga struggle,” he said.

Activist Athouba of Coordination Committee on Manipur said “AFSPA exposes India’s attitude towards the people of Northeast. It is colonial in attitude, draconian in character, inhumane as legislation and undemocratic as an Act”.

The insurgency issue, he observed, is political and it cannot be resolved by imposing AFSPA or withdrawing it. Time has proved militarization and aggressive military operations in the region for five decades failed to resolve the problem, he said.

Fellow activist Babloo Loitongbam said the repeal of AFSPA might not be the panacea of all problems but it would definitely be a move in the right direction.

Suhas Chakma, who is the Director of Rights and Risks Analysis Group, said the repeal of AFSPA would reduce the feeling of alienation. 

“The police can deal with insurgency the way the Naxalites are being dealt with,” he said.