On 2 November 2010, Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu, ( Known as Iron Lady of Manipur), will complete ten years of hunger strike demanding the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA). An extraordinary struggle of an extraordinary woman!
Irom Chanu Sharmila began her protest after the Malom massacre where 10 civilians were gunned down by the Indian security Forces on 2 November 2000. She has been on hunger strike since then! But, Indian Government has not taken steps to repeal AFSPA so far.
AFSPA provides special powers to arrest, detain and even kill civilians on suspicion. The power to search and destroy properties on mere suspicion is granted to the Armed Forces of the Union in the ‘disturbed areas’ of the North East (and subsequently in Kashmir). Where ever AFSPA is in operation, enforced ‘disappearances’, extra-judicial killings, torture, rape and arbitrary detention have been routinely reported. In 1958 when the Union Home Minster introduced the law in the Parliament, he assured that the Act will be in operation for only 6 months.
She has been kept alive on the constant painful “nasogastric intubation” (filled with vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup) and in solitary confinement as a high security prisoner for almost ten years. The ritual of release and rearrest is still continuing.
With decrease of terrorist activities in North East India, which even Union Home Minister of India acknowledged publicly in recent times about “dramatic fall of insurgency” in North Eastern States.
So, most probably, this is a good time for taking steps by Indian government to withdraw AFSPA step by step from North East India.