AFSPA: A Response from the Theatre of the Absurd

The AFSPA, by its form and in its application, violates the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (the ‘UDHR’), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (the ‘ICCPR’), the Convention Against Torture, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Body of Principles for Protection of All Persons Under any form of Detention, and the UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal and summary executions.

From the Armed Forces Special Powers Act: A Study in National Security Tyranny by South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre;

AFSPA: A Response from the Theatre of the Absurd

Despite a Supreme Court directive to scrap the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, hardly there has been any change on the ground. It was during mid-1990s that the court made the judgment. Talking about duration, for more than five decades, the state is using this draconian act to suppress the people under the cloak of fighting insurgency. Hardly five organisations exist in Manipur in 1980 when the state imposed the law; and now, we have more than 30 of them. And they talk about its necessity. Is the state on a mission to redefine absurdity?

The only difference we can see, after the imposition, is the increasing number of militant outfits, unlimited cases of human rights violation, rising military civic actions, questions against the nation, staged-surrender dramas and a generation of fed-up people. Thanks to the army generals and their lobbyists plus the nationalists with Napoleon the piggy ego. As the largest democratic country pushes its ideals to the corner, some people — especially those who bear no brunt and are ignorant about the negative outcomes — are demanding for its continued imposition. Common sense is terribly missing; and arguments are rife, so is the feeling of gutter-fitted patriotism.

No provocation, mere assertion

I came across a comment to an article regarding AFSPA 1958 from one Ramaswamy (attached image). Read the write-up All you wanted to know about the AFSPA by Pallavi Bedi on Rediff ( It prompts me to reply to each sentence, all of them, which the commenter had typed in UPPERCASE; but I have changed those parts into bold, sentence case here. I cannot talk about Kashmir, though the situation might be similar. I will be concentrating on Manipur and a few parts of the Northeast.

AFSPA: A Response from the Theatre of the Absurd
A patriot comments on the AFSPA-related article

‘Please do not create opinion against AFSPA’
Really? Mr Ramaswamy, please give me one reason why we should NOT form opinions against this draconian law that has been imposed on a peripheral state. It is not certain how much reasonable you can be, however, the more reasons you give, the more moron you will be — that’s for sure. This law is a colonial legacy to fight the ‘external’ forces. First, we are not ‘external’ citizens. There is not even a term like that. Second, you do not have to hang on to the past, without knowing its implications. This act, imposed by the state, is in itself against the idea of India as a democratic, republic country.

‘It is must for India’
Is it a must for India? Or is it a must to give some strength to the impotent personnel, who need extra protection to do their job? If they don’t know how to perform, then simply, they are ineligible for the job. It is entirely another issue if the end of the act sis imply not to curb insurgency as claimed, but a way of administrating a BUFFER STATE. Who can call the shot, anyway, when we are are in a namesake democracy and the best thing we get is an election to choose a spineless ruling class periodically?

You think it is a must for India. What about the people who are living in those regions where this black law is imposed? Are they lesser Indian who have been coerced because it is a must for the country? So is the state justified for its own sake to suppress a group of people under martial laws? Come on, read your books on military intervention, if you cannot realise the pain of the people. India is the largest democracy by sheer numbers only. But this number will not be able to subjugate the people for eternity.

‘Do not push the great sacrifices our security forces made in its war against insurgency and terrorism’
Patriotism is fine, so the saying goes, as long as it does not end at the border of a country. By the way, what is the root cause of insurgency?

AFSPA is treating only the symptoms of a faulty nation-building process. The great sacrifices are a hokum. The dogs are only following their master’s bark. What is a nation, anyway? The law creates an impression that the nation and the state can use force to say it is their way or the highway. No wonder, the state cannot reply to the separatists’ claim that they are not fighting against India, nor they have animosity towards the union. They are fighting only for the lost sovereignty.  

‘Yes there may be cases of violation of human rights’
Yes, a lot of them… and all of them are a disgrace. Rape. Fake encounters. Fear psychosis. Murders. Is AFSPA the reply why we have no right to life, leave alone the struggle for self-determination?

‘We have to take steps to curtail such happenings. That’s all’
Can you, please, be more specific? Steps, you mean ex-gratia to the family of those dead people? Steps, like the phony military civic actions? Steps, like putting some ridiculous one-liners such as ‘Friend of the people’ on signboards at every corner of the winding highways in the hills.

Can you afford to fool and lie to all the people all the time? There is one more thing: India is still under a nation-building process. If the nation had initiated the process of Indianisation properly and legally to the erstwhile kingdoms and states, there would have been no insurgency or separatist movements in the first place. AFSPA would have been redundant, but not. This act would have been an ordinance to suppress the Quit India Movement in early 1940s, which we could study in history classes. But the case is different, no matter how much public relations stunts the army can put up.

‘If you scrap AFSPA then (the) country will be pushed into chaos’
In Manipur, the act was imposed in 1980. In those days, there were only a handful of organisations: UNLF (1964), PREPAK (1977), PLA (1978), and KCP (1980). Today, more than 30 groups exist with their demands ranging from secession to state autonomy. The act is pushing us deeper into chaos. Besides an armed resistance against the Union, now we have ethnic hostilities as well to add more wound to the deeply fractured societies. I am not a sympathizer of the rebels. They are hateful as much as the gunmen, who work under the protection of law. You call these gunmen army men and patriots, who would even sacrifice their private parts for the country.

AFSPA: A Response from the Theatre of the Absurd
‘Please do not heed to the voice of these so called liberals and human rights activists who are in the real sense helping (some directly and many indirectly, few knowingly and many unknowingly) the anti-national elements’
So, you mean the imposition of a draconian law and intimidating an entire race of people are the aim of national forces. The national elements? Your support for this law shows your patriotism. You think it is the lofty act of nationalism. How can you impose patriotism when it should be a natural response of an individual? Has Mao taught you the power lies in the barrel of the gun? How is the state different from the outlawed Naxalites? How is it different from the several secessionist groups that use violence to achieve their political goals?

You do not know how much it is completely a crap. Is the call for peace, demand for true democracy, the voice against injustice anti-national? How long has it been going on? Since 1947? It is probably from 1949, when nationalist fathers coerce the local bastards to sign the Merger Agreement. That was not enough; and for the price, we have got the AFSPA for being a part of this country. Nothing can be more absurd. What use is a state of, if it is always going against us?

‘When thousands of security personnel sacrifice their lives, why not we bear (a few) violations’
When so many people have lost their lives and endured the suffering for quite a long time, why not this law be scrapped. If the authority solve this mess — which we believe, it is well within their power seeing its capacity to kill and rule — the soldiers can hang up their boots, go back to their respective villages and town and do something more constructive.

Mr Ramaswamy, you have given us enough reasons why we can call you a dork.
Military people are known for their discipline and sacrifice. India can celebrate more Republic Days for them, acknowledging their contribution, singing paean for their discipline and sacrifice. But why would they want to kill an entire race of people to contribute to the country? Is killing a national job? Even if it is not so, check the statistics how they manage fake encounters and staged surrender drama, all of which help them earn the laurel from the state.

The academicians have succeeded in labeling any form of agitation and movement as a form of regionalism, if you want to argue more. All the supporters of AFSPA have given us valid reasons why we need to ignore them, if not to tell them their silence is most appreciated. Only a handful of elites and a salaried class are standing for this act. The state has imposed the law because it has the strength. The elites and the salaried class can go back to their families and tell stories to their children about love and sacrifice and nauseating conformity.

The nation is above the petty courts. We can fully understand it, but we are fed up of watching it flaunting its power. In the darkest period of our civilization, we can sense its might so well. Now would it allow us to live like a human being? How long would the AFSPA remain in force? It would be quite a long time to wait for the rebels to give up their arms. It would be equally long to wait if they pass their violent political test.

Breaking News:
2004 Manorama Devi rape-murder: No action against armed forces yet Jan 15, 2013, CNN IBN
“Unfortunately, people in Manipur have almost learnt to live with the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, so be it the rape of Thangjam Manorama in 2004 or those of Miss Rose in 1974 or Mrs Ahanjobi in 1996, all protests in this heavily militarised state fade out in the end and things continue to remain just the same, unchanged.”
Useful links:
A burgeoning clinical and empirical literature has provided incontrovertible evidence that combat operations exact a heavy toll in terms of human suffering not only on combatants but also military support personnel. Though the Indian army is engaged in low intensity conflict (LIC) operations for over five decades, the psychological effects of LIC deployment on soldiers have not been adequately studied.

In 1958, though, it was Jawaharlal Nehru – one of the Quit India agitators himself – who hoped to get his blow in fust. As prime minister, Nehru was fighting India’s first separatist insurgency: the Naga National Council’s attempt to create a sovereign state in the northeast. The Naga leader, Angami Phizo, had proclaimed the Federal Government of Nagaland in 1954, but the Indian army’s efforts in combating this insurgency had not been going very well; the historian Sarvepalli Gopal compared the army’s challenge to “eating soup with a knife.” The Times of London reported: “[T]he Indian army does not know who is a loyal Naga and who is a rebel; they look the same… Unable to identify the enemy, Indian soldiers have killed several innocent people on the slightest suspicion.”



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