Iron Lady of Manipur, rights activist Irom Sharmila welcomed the Centre’s decision to reduce areas under the purview of AFSPA in Assam, Nagaland and Manipur but maintained that the ‘draconian colonial law’ should be repealed. Sharmila was on a 16-year-long hunger strike demanding repeal of AFSPA.
Sharmila termed AFSPA an “oppressive law” and said that it has never been a solution to tackle insurgency.
In a telephonic interview with PTI, Irom Sharmila said, “I welcome the Centre's decision to reduce the number of areas under the AFSPA's purview. It is a positive step in the right direction. But the law should be repealed as it is not a solution.”
"India is a democratic country. For how long should we carry forward this colonial law? Why should people suffer because of it? In the name of fighting insurgency, crores of rupees are wasted which could have been utilised for the overall development of Northeast. AFSPA acts as a roadblock for progress," Sharmila, who ended her marathon hunger strike in 2016, said.
The Centre's decision came three months after it constituted a high-level committee to examine the possibility of lifting AFSPA from Nagaland, where 14 civilians were gunned down by security forces in a case of "mistaken identity" in December last year, triggering massive outrage.
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She further stated, "The law and order situation in Manipur is not so bad that AFSPA has to remain imposed. Only bureaucrats and politicians derive benefits from its imposition. It creates misunderstanding among unemployed youths. The common people are the ones who suffer.”
AFSPA has been in force in the three northeastern states for decades to tackle insurgency. It gives the security forces power to apprehend anyone on the basis of suspicion without a warrant, besides providing troops immunity from arrest or prosecution. Human rights activists have alleged that the law has been often misused to arrest, raid houses or even shoot people.
"You can't win over people by force. The government should try to win the hearts of the people of Northeast. Once there is real connection between the people and those in power, things will improve," she said.
Noting that people from the Northeast face discrimination in other parts of the country, Sharmila, who unsuccessfully contested the 2017 Manipur assembly polls, said the repeal of AFSPA will also reduce the distance between people of the region and "mainland India".
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