Imphal: Union Home Minister Amit Shah’s announcement that “15 police station areas of six districts of Manipur will be excluded from Disturbed Areas notification” was welcomed cautiously by prominent social activists in the state, which has been on the frontline of movements against AFSPA, who at the same time expressed dissatisfaction that the “draconian Act” has not been totally repealed.
However, Chief Minister N Biren Singh said the decision to reduce the number of areas where the Armed Forces Special Powers Act is in force, will usher in a “new era of peace, prosperity and development.”
Taking to his official Facebook account, Biren Singh remarked “considering the sentiment of the people of Manipur, Hon’ble PM Narendra Modi has decided to reduce disturbed areas under Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Manipur. This historic decision is a result of the robust development and improved security situation…”
Editor of Imphal Times and social activist Rinku Khumukcham welcomed the new development but said, “The movement for the repeal of the inhumane AFSPA or its amendment in favour of a more humane one still stands”.
He pointed out that already provisions included in IPC and CrPc are sufficient to handle the insurgency situation in Manipur. He cited the instance of Naxal-hit areas in mainland India where AFSPA has not been imposed but operations by the military and security forces are going on.
Director Human Rights Alert Babloo Loitongbam also said “we welcome it. It’s a step in the right direction but our movement for the repeal of AFSPA will continue.”
Executive editor of The Frontier Manipur, Paojel Chaoba who was ‘detained’ under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) in 2021 for an article published on the news web portal but eventually released said, “We too welcome it for it is overdue. However, AFSPA should be revoked by the state.”
He pointed out that instead of merely rolling it back from 15 police station areas, it would have been better if “AFSPA has been rolled back from the entire valley area of Manipur.”
Manipur has a long history of civic protests against the AFSPA and excesses committed by security forces which gives certain extra-judicial powers to troops deployed in states where the law is in operation.
In November 2000, 10 civilians were allegedly gunned down by Assam Rifles troops at Malom Makha Leikai, near Imphal airport. The incident inspired a young Irom Sharmila to start the longest known hunger strike against AFSPA. Though Sharmila was arrested and force-fed in hospital, her protest gained worldwide media attention to this act.
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