Monday, 7 May 2012


The report that Indian Army received more than 1,532 complaints of alleged rights violations against its personnel since the establishment of a human rights cell at the Army headquarters in March 1993 and as many as 129 Army personnel, including three dozen officers, were found guilty of human rights violations mostly in Jammu & Kashmir and North Easter in the last two decades has once again brought to the fore the issue of human right abuses with immunity under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (AFSPA)in Manipur.

With numerous incidents of arbitrary arrests and killings, fake encounters, forced disappearances, rape and torture, etc, people of Manipur who have suffered long enough under this Army Act have been demanding its repeal and Irom Chanu Sharmila has been fasting for more than 11 years now over the same.

After the Indian Parliament passed it on August 11, 1958 despite strong opposition from some members, AFSPA was enforced in Manipur for the first time in 1961 in some hill areas to curb Naga insurgents.

But by 1980, the whole state came under the grip of the Army Act, which has been described by many as draconian. But down the years, in addition to public outcry over Army excesses, redundancy over imposition of AFSPA in Manipur is becoming more than evidently clear from the inability of the Act to curb insurgency.

In fact, the Act has become counter-productive with multiplication of insurgent groups. There have also been allegations of misusing some splinter groups by the Army.

Against this backdrop, it is good that the Indian Army has acknowledged the mistake of its men and taken up appropriate measures to punish the guilty. According to the report, 59 personnel, including some officers, were punished in Jammu and Kashmir in the nine cases of rights violations while 70 personnel were punished in Northeast after their guilt was established.

Moreover, Army has awarded compensation in 34 cases in which the complaints were found to be genuine. While compensation was paid in 15 cases in Jammu and Kashmir, 19 victims of rights violations were compensated in Northeast.

All these cases relate to complaints filed since the establishment of the Human Rights Cell of the Army in March, 1993 to handle cases of human rights violations against Army personnel deployed in counter insurgency operations.

However, in Manipur the heat of AFSPA has been felt by the people much before that and there have been numerous instances of Army excesses including 'massacres' like that of Oinam in 1978, Heirangoithong in 1984 and Tera Bazaar in 1993, to name just a few.

All these 'massacres' and other similar harrowing experiences underwent by the people in this strife-torn state have taken place before Indian Army wakes up to its moral responsibility of respecting human rights of the people and setting up of its Human Rights Cell.

Most cases of human rights violations in Manipur before and after this have remained discreetly covered up and lost in the vortex of time and tide with no hope for justice.

In the absence of a leader like Omar Abdullah of Jammu & Kashmir who can bare his fangs against AFSPA in Manipur, all that we can say is May the innocent souls of victims of right abuses under the shadow of the Army Act rest in peace. Amen.

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