Time to Repeal AFSPA
The world has been observing December 10 as Human Rights Day ever since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on this day in 1948. This valuable document declares the indisputable rights every human being, by virtue, is entitled to have regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, place and status. It took bloodshed witnessed in the Second World War for the world to gather courage to say “yes there is rampant human rights violation across the world and it needs to be addressed”. It was no doubt a milestone in the history of humankind but we need to ask if this issue has been solved over the last 72-long years. The situation may be better today than then but the fight is far from over as human rights abuse is still rampant, to the extent of taking lives in the name of nationalism, religion, gender, etc. We don’t have to look far to find it because India is home to one of the most repressive laws existing in the 21st century — the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958. This Act gives the armed forces the power to “fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law or order” if they deem it necessary for maintenance of public order. The government of India had repealed this draconian law in some states but not completely. In fact, the AFSPA has been there in Nagaland since its attainment of statehood and its citizens, who have not lived in other states, won’t know what life is like outside of it. Voices have been raised against it but the Centre has not been considerate to the plight of the people till date. Even civil rights activist Irom Chanu Sharmila from Manipur failed to repeal it despite being on a hunger strike for 15 years in protest. Instead of repealing, the government extends “disturbed area” tag every six months, reminding the people in the area that their rights still could be undermined.
But how long should the world’s largest democracy take to scrap a draconian law such as this? Is 5-6 decades not long enough to bring peace? This utter failure shows that successive Indian governments did not have the political will to remove the “disturbed area” tag; failed to address the main issues in the so called “disturbed” areas; or just have false insecurity. Violence was synonymous with most Northeastern states a few decades ago but not anymore. Today, this region is more peaceful than many states where reports of rowdy individuals creating disturbances including killings often hit the headlines. The AFSPA has already caused untold sufferings to the civilians and many lives have been lost in fake encounters and extra-judicial killings. India should repeal this draconian law and win back the confidence and faith of the people- the sooner the better. Talking about human rights without revoking this more than half a century old repressive law will be utter hypocrisy.