26th November 1949, the day India felt a gush of pride after the completion of The Constitution of India. Two years, eleven months and eighteen days of hard work, just to make sure that Indians live in a free democratic country without someone else exerting their power on the citizens and residents of the Independent Bharat. Looking back in time and looking at the scenario right now, it feels sorrowful to see how the Indian Constitution is being violated every single day. One such scenario is the torture of people of Manipur.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, commonly known as AFSPA, was formed to help Indian Army tackle the problems in disturbed areas of Northeast. While some seem to think of it as a generous idea for the protection of the under-recognised section of India, the people living in it have opposite views. The residents of Manipur believe that the Act formed is violative of their human rights.
Section 4 of the Act, which gives the army special powers to take steps, has allowed for the armed forced 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 for the time being in force in the disturbed area” which will prohibit the assembly of five or more people carrying weapons. It allows for any armed force personnel to destroy any form of hiding out which can be used for gangs or absconders. Any arrest for a cognizable offence under Section 4 can be done without a warrant if the person is accused or even has a mere suspicion raised against them. Lastly, the armed forces can look into any search any premises without a search warrant to recover a person who could be wrongfully confined or a property that can be suspected to be stolen.
Section 6 of the acts specifies that any person who acts under this act will not be held liable for any harm or injury they cause. This is the reason why nobody was held liable for the merciless murder of Manorama. The 32-year-old daughter was dragged from her house and tortured when her mother and brother saw her begging for help. The victim bled to death when she was constantly shot in her legs and private parts, allegedly to hide the evidence of possible sexual assault. This led to massive protests by naked women who held the banner “Indian Army: Rape Us”. Thanks to Section 6 of this Act, the accused army men had an unnecessary protective shield that left the mourning family with a small compensation and injustice. The death of Manorama led to several protests in Manipur for the repeal of the Act. Then-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh responded and asked for a recommended committee to submit a report. The committee did submit a report suggesting the repeal of the Act, but nothing has happened till today.
The list of torture by the armed forces is endless, just like the stories. The acts of the armed forces include gun violence, electric shocks, beatings and simulated drownings, which are common. People were missing in Manipur before the government of Manipur asked the armed forces to submit arrest memos. But the record says that there easily have been 17 ‘disappeared’ people from 1980s and 1990s.
There was a judgement that came on July 8th, 2016. The judgement ordered a detailed investigation into 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounters. Where on one side, Justices Uday Lalit and Madan B. tried creating public accountability of security forces, the political party that went to the Supreme Court with a petition that challenged the judgement believed that public accountability of the extra-judicial activities of the armed forces will lead to a decline in the morale of the armed forces.
Human Rights Violation:
The violation of an individual’s human and fundamental rights is blatant in Manipur.
Violation of the Golden Triangle that ensures the right to live, and not just an animal life, but a life with equality and freedom.:
a) Article 14- Equality Before Law
b) Article 19- Protection of Certain Rights Regarding Freedom of Speech. Etc.
c) Article 21- Protection of Life and Personal Liberty
2. Violation of
a) Article 1- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
b) Article 3- Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.
c) Article 5- No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
d) Article 9- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
e) Article 11- (1) Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence. (2) No one shall be held guilty of any penal offence on account of any act or omission which did not constitute a penal offence, under national or international law, at the time when it was committed. Nor shall a heavier penalty be imposed than the one that was applicable at the time the penal offence was committed.
f) Article 12- No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
g) Article 20- (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association. (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR)
With the violation of several human rights, fundamental rights and mainly, justice, it is high time that State takes a step-in order to protect the innocent lives of Manipur. While one might argue that repealing of the Act might lead to several issues, such as the armed forces not working unless legal protection is provided to them. They may lose initiative and get demoralized. There may be bias in cases of actions taken by armed forces. Militants will end up getting an upper hand in every situation. There will be incidents of extortion from the civilian population and last of all, civil administration could be run by militants leading to chaos.
What can be done?
There needs to be a system of accountability. The armed forces should be held accountable for any extra-judicial activity they do. Accountability will lead to a reduction in violence, as it will officially come under the books. The laws made, especially AFSPA need to be more accommodating to the rights of the citizens of Manipur. There could also be a form of training that makes the armed forces understand what is allowed and what is not. They can learn to understand a circumstance and suing their minds to crack the alleged person. All judicial authorities need to treat all cases that come in and handle them with no delay.
With not one or two, but with hundreds of voices, people of Manipur will receive what they deserve- a night’s sleep not worrying about being dragged and shot by people who they once felt safe under. Let’s make the bleeding state to a happy state.
Singh, O. (2011). ARMED VIOLENCE IN MANIPUR AND HUMAN RIGHTS. The Indian Journal of Political Science, 72(4), 997-1006. (November 29, 2020), http://www.jstor.org/stable/41856535
The Hindu Net Desk, What is AFSPA, and where is it in force? The Hindu (2018), last visited Nov 29, 2020 https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/what-is-afspa-and-where-is-it-in-force/article23648102.ece.
Rajagopal, K., Manorama 'mercilessly tortured'. (November 29, 2020) https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/manorama-death-brutal-torture-probe-panel/article6596278.ece
A War on Manipur's People: Manipuris continue to campaign against extrajudicial killings by the men in uniform. (2013). Economic and Political Weekly, 48(1), 9-9. (November 29, 2020), http://www.jstor.org/stable/23391124
Getting Away With Murder. (n.d.). (November 29, 2020), https://www.hrw.org/legacy/backgrounder/2008/india0808/
Human Rights Watch interview with Babloo Loitongbam, Executive Director, Human Rights Alert (November 29, 2020).
Shielding the Armed Forces for Actions Under AFSPA, But at What Cost? (n.d.). (November 29, 2020), https://thewire.in/law/bjp-modi-afspa-manipur-kashmir
Manipur and Armed Forces (Special Power) Act 1958. (n.d.). (November 29, 2020) from https://idsa.in/strategicanalysis/ManipurandArmedForcesSpecialPowerAct1958_akamboj_1004
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948.
The Constitution of India
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958. Act No. 28 of 1958