The developing struggle against the repressive Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958), used as a means to oppress the people of the North East for nearly five decades continuously, came to the streets of Delhi on October 11. Hundreds of people belonging to more than a dozen organisations and universities came together in a procession to demand the repeal of this thoroughly anti-people law. Lok Raj Sangathan was one of the organisers of the rally, along with the Manipur Student Association Delhi, the Naga People’s Movement for Human Rights, Saheli, Jagori, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan, Other Media, the JNU Students Union, and other organizations.
Under the provisions of this Act, innumerable atrocities have been inflicted on the people of Manipur, Nagaland, Assam and other states in the North East. People’s homes have been invaded and destroyed, youth and others have been arbitrarily arrested, tortured and killed, women have been raped. The Act allows even the lowest-ranking non-commissioned officer of the armed forces to shoot and kill any person, or arrest people even on the merest suspicion that they might commit some offence, and the people have no right to appeal. Two years ago, the brutal rape and murder of Manorama Devi by personnel of the Assam Rifles in Manipur brought lakhs of people of all ages out onto the streets in weeks of protests, and brought life there to a halt. Concerned people in different cities of India also took out demonstrations and rallies in support of the demand for the repeal of this odious Act.
Faced with this situation, the Prime Minister at that time had to promise to look into the matter, and appointed the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to study the Act and its operation, and to give its recommendations. The Committee submitted its report nearly one and a half years ago, but the government is yet to make its recommendations public. This is probably because, as has been reliably reported, the Committee unanimously recommended repeal of the Act, something which the government is not prepared to do.
Under these circumstances, it is extremely important that the protests against the Act be taken up with renewed vigour. The October 11 rally, right in the heart of New Delhi near the headquarters of several media offices, was accompanied by vigorous slogan-shouting, mass distribution of leaflets and prominent banners demanding repeal of the AFSPA. It made a big impact on those who witnessed it. Among other things, the protesters demanded that the Justice Reddy Committee Report must be made public, and that the government must not write the draconian provisions of the AFSPA into some other law. Many of those who participated in the rally were arrested by the police. The rally was being held at the same time that Irom Sharmila, who has been fasting for the last six years to demand repeal of the Act and who has become the symbol of the valiant fight put up by the people of Manipur and the North East for their rights, has brought her protest to the capital.
The LRS representative at the Rally hailed the courageous struggle of the people of the North East against the AFSPA. He stressed that this and other anti-people legislation was part of the colonial legacy handed down by the British colonialists, which has been retained and further strengthened by the present-day rulers of our country. He said that the only way that the national rights of the different peoples inhabiting India can be realised is by ensuring that the ordinary people of this country have political power in their own hands, and by reconstituting India as a voluntary union of nations, nationalities and tribal peoples.