To: Government of India,
For 46 years millions of people living in India’s Northeast have been forced to live under virtual army rule. They have faced daily humiliation, arbitrary arrests, rapes, and custodial murders by branches of the Indian armed forces, without any possibility of redress. This state of affairs has been sanctioned by a draconian legislation called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which has been on the statute books in various forms since 1958, when it was introduced to help crush secessionist movements in the Northeast. It is currently in operation in large parts of the Northeast as well as Jammu and Kashmir.
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 redress.
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.
The latest atrocities committed by the armed forces under the protection of this Act in the state of Manipur have been the killing of Zamkholet Khongsai, a 60 year old pastor, on 8th July, followed by the brutal rape and murder of 32 year old Manorama on 11 July. In the wake of these incidents there have been widespread protests against the AFSPA in Manipur, which still continue. Hundreds of people, including elderly women and students, have been arrested in the protests, and sent to jail. Unmoved by this display of public anger, the Central Government has been pressing the Manipur State Government for more repression on the protesters.
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.
A country that calls itself a democracy cannot sanction a part of its people living under legalized martial law for almost six decades. We join the people of Manipur in opposing this Act. We demand that it be withdrawn from the entire country and be repealed.