REPEAL ‘AFSPA’, Dreaded Tool of State TerrorDecember 27, 2021
Union Home Minister, while giving information about this massacre in Rajya Sabha on 6 December, gave a completely false statement that the army asked the said vehicle to stop but when the driver tried to run away, the army contingent had to open fire. Indian Express spoke to the seriously injured workers, Xiwang and Yiwang, in the hospital, in which they informed that they there was no warning to stop. When their tempo was descending from the slope down the hill, bullets were fired indiscriminately from two sides. They felt as if bombs are exploding and they fell down in panic. The tempo driver did not make any effort to run away, they unnecessarily killed us. He also told that it was not dark at that time and the soldiers were able to see us. Shivang also told how the soldiers were dragging the dead bodies out of the tempo. Among those corpses was also the body of his real brother, who was a mine worker like him. He also told that they were all completely unarmed. Giving very important information to the Indian Express (December 8), Superintendent of Dibrugarh Medical College, Prashant Dhingia told that both the seriously injured workers were quietly left by the army personnel at midnight. They didn’t know who they were. It was only in the morning, when the news of the killing of the workers by the army spread, they posted the pictures of Shivang and Yiwang on social media, then they came to know that these two workers are fellow workers of the same killed workers. Nagaland Director General of Police T John and Commissioner Rovilato Mor confirmed in a joint statement to the state government that “before firing on coal mine workers in Nagaland, the armed forces did not make any effort to ascertain their identity, opened fire directly.” Both the top police officers also told that the soldiers wanted to take the dead bodies silently by putting them in the van but had to abandon that plan as the villagers surrounded them. This was also the purpose behind quietly leaving the workers seriously injured by bullets in the hospital. If the villagers had not surrounded the army men by putting their lives on firing line, then the next day we would have read the news of the ‘dreaded terrorists’ killed by the army and weapons would also have found in the hands of those poor workers. The killer soldiers would have been promoted too by now!!
Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) 1958; Barbaric black law leaves masses at mercy of security forces
The painful story of the citizens of our beautiful, picturesque 7 states of the North East facing government repression is 63 years old. By taking away the rights guaranteed by the Constitution, this law that provides freedom to armed security agencies to arbitrarily suppress public sentiments under military boots, was passed by the Parliament headed by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on 11 September 1958. Yes, the same Nehru ji, calling whom the Messiah of democracy and Statesman, not only liberals but also many ‘Leftists’ dance singing praise songs. Very few countries have such a draconian law that crushes democratic rights so brutally across the world and leaves poor masses at the mercy of armed forces. In fact, the most important chapter of the entire independence movement was the ‘Quit India’ movement of 1942, which not only shook the roots of the British power in our country but also provided a historic opportunity to the revolutionary forces of our country to lead the exploited masses to the true freedom like in Soviet Union as majority of the people had got politically charged and took to streets en masse. At that time, to crush that movement, the British had brought a law in which the armed forces were given freedom to arrest and kill anyone. Nehru knew the ‘usefulness’ of that law, so the ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 was passed by combining the same law and the laws brought at the time of the horrific communal genocide at the time of partition.
The first two lines of this law read; ‘a law granting special powers to armed security forces in the disturbed states of the country (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura); Violence has become a part of people’s lives in the North Eastern states. The government administration has failed to control it.’
The ‘socialist, secular, statesman’ politician like Nehru and his learned cabinet ministers did not bother to ponder, why violence has become a part of their lives among the citizens of the North-East states? Is there any genetic, biological predisposition among the people there? Has there been a violent breed in the North East? Are those people different from the rest of the country, they are uncontrollable, they enjoy resorting to violence? Aren’t there multiple nationalities in the northeastern states? Is it a crime to fight for the honor of their own nationalities, Naga, Mizo, Khasi, Kuki, Bodo, Tripura, Konyak, Noko, Makuri, Para, Tangshung etc just like Gujaratis, Maharashtrians, Punjabis, Bengalis, Tamils etc. did? Their nationalities are small but is it a crime or is it mandatory that minorities be slaves and always submit to the dictates of the majority? Is this, what we have learnt from the hundreds of years of freedom movement against British colonial robbers? Can public sentiments be suppressed by force, forever? Can people be made patriots by beating them by sticks like nowadays the self-proclaimed patriotic brigade of hardline Hindutva make minorities say Jai Shri Ram? Mouths of people can be shut or gagged by putting gun on their head and crushing them under military boots but can this brutal act stop the flames of public rage from blazing beneath the surface? Is barbaric violence by the state on its own people justified? If this is our belief, then do we have gall to call our citizens of north eastern 7 states as our ‘unalienable organ’? These questions are very basic for a state which arrogantly proclaims itself a welfare democratic state, ‘the largest democracy in the world’. By pushing these vital questions of life and death under the carpet and leaving the poor people at the mercy of the armed forces, a country cannot be different from the colonial rulers.
Under Section 3 of this Act, Central Government or the Governor of the State concerned can declare any state as a disturbed area and inform that the help of the armed forces is needed to help the civil administration and this terrible law comes into force. Once applied, all the citizens of the declared state are forced to live at the mercy of army. It should be noted here that according to the constitution, law and order is a state matter. Nehru passed this law in 1958 and immediately put to use in Mizoram and Nagaland, under which the army fired from helicopters. Helicopter firing cannot discriminate between guilty and innocent, it is used to kill, maim and intimidate people, inflict state terror on the public psyche. Under this act, the citizens of the North-Eastern states were made to taste the fresh freedom that they had not experienced even under British rule. This dreaded tool of suppression was later used during period of terrorism in Punjab after 1983 but apart from the northeastern states, the state which suffered the most from its repression and oppression is Jammu and Kashmir, where not only it was used many times but in 1990 a separate ‘Armed Forces Special Powers Jammu and Kashmir Act, 1990’ was enacted for Jammu and Kashmir. Under which even today the constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people are being ruthlessly crushed and the entire state is turned into an open jail.
How barbaric is the AFSPA Act, becomes evident just by reading sections 4 (a, b, c, d, e), 5 and 6. After implementation of AFSPA, any officer of the army, even a subedar, if he feels that there is a danger to ‘national security’, can enter any house any time without warning, can search and arrest people, can shoot to kill. To do all this, he does not need to go to any court to obtain any search warrant. He can search any vehicle by stopping it anywhere, if in doubt, can take that vehicle in his possession. If he feels that any house, shop or office may pose a security threat in future, then he can use force to blow it up with a bomb. Even a locked house, shop or office can be searched by breaking open the lock. His use of force need not be commensurate with the ‘potential danger’. The most sinister provision is that after any such action, if the suspicion of that officer is proved to be absolutely false, concocted or fabricated, as happened in the mining worker massacre in Nagaland on December 4, even then no case can be registered against him. No matter how heinous the crime may have been committed, it would be presumed that he did all this with good intention. Even if the harassed masses of a state compel the government to repeal this barbaric law, as the people of Punjab, Tripura and Meghalaya have done, still no one can be blamed for the atrocities committed when this act was in force. Cases cannot be registered, FIRs can’t be lodged. There will be no punishment to even these killer soldiers who killed innocent workers in Nagaland. The drama that ‘it is being investigated’ or ‘they have been suspended’ will go on till the wound remains fresh, later they will all be found working in their place as usually. These soldiers of the Assam Rifles, who were responsible for the massacre, also know this fact because they have committed such crimes many a times. How many times has this happened since 1958, can’t even be counted?
The barbarity of AFSPA black law acknowledged by the government itself
This law is so cruel that during 63 years since 1958 till date, all the parties have pointed out its cruelty and inhumanity but only when they were in opposition. After coming to power, every party has tied the same black band of shamelessness on its eyes. This reality underscores the real dreaded face of bourgeois state power. Indira Gandhi imposed AFSPA in 1972 despite opposition from the Tripura government turning blind eye to the constitutional provision that law and order is a state subject. P Chidambaram has commented before and after this incident also that ‘even if this law cannot be repealed, then at least it should be amended, it gives unlimited powers to the army’. For ten years, the same Chidambaram was sitting at the top of the power, he was also the Home- Minister, but at that time he shamefully forgot his words. In 2004, the UPA government set up a commission under the chairmanship of Justice Jeevan Reddy to study the bloody aspects of this inhuman law, which submitted its report to the government in 2005, stating that the AFSPA Act had become a heinous tool of brutal oppression on the people. It should be withdrawn forth with. Confirming that report, the second administrative commission headed by Veerappa Moily wrote that this black law should really be repealed. The insensitivity of the government, however, did not show any improvement. Both the reports must be rotting, lying in some corner of the Ministry of Home Affairs. At the end of its tenure, the UPA government formed another committee under the chairmanship of Home Secretary Pillai. He said the same thing but the government did not buzz. Modi-Shah government has put aside the hypocrisy and farce of these commissions and committees. For these ‘nationalists’, army should be given more leeway. Their patriotism means that the more the working people are crushed, the more democratic rights guaranteed by the Constitution are snatched away, the stronger the nation will be!! In the present era of the eve of capitalism, the monopoly corporates, the finance capital sharks have handed over power to them with great expectations. How can they let their bosses down!! All the parties of the seven states of the North East have always come to power with the promise, each of them has made his/her political career on the promise that after coming to power, they will remove AFSPA, but after assuming power, either they themselves forget that promise shamelessly or the Central Government does not give any value to their proposal and it does not matter to them sitting in Delhi. After the horrific firing incident of December 4, the Nagaland Legislative Assembly has given a written recommendation to the Center to withdraw this oppressive tool of state terror but the ‘almighty’ Home Minister did not bother to even comment on it!!
Hegde Commission exposed the inexplicable cruelty of AFSPA
Manipur has the highest number of incidents of youths being arrested by the army and then killed in fake encounters by calling them terrorists, separatists. Families who lost their children in such barbaric fake encounters formed an organization, Extra-judicial Killing Victim Family’s Association, Manipur, EKVFAM and they filed a petition in Supreme Court together with the ‘Human Rights Alert’ (HRA) in which they submitted to the court documentary proof and evidence that in 33 years between 1979 and 2012, a total of 1528 persons are killed in fake encounters by armed security agencies. They prayed to the court that these cases should be investigated. Since irrefutable evidence was attached to the petition, the Supreme Court appointed an inquiry commission headed by Justice Santosh Hegde, the other two members of the commission being former Election Commissioner M Lyngdoh and former Director General of Police of Karnataka Arun Kumar Singh. The Hegde Commission investigated 6 cases out of these 1528 fake encounters as test cases and in its report noted that none of these encounters are true, not a single murder was committed in self-defense by security agencies, not a single victim has ever been directly or indirectly involved in any act of terrorism in any form, no person had any criminal record. Not only this, the report further states that the law is being flouted in Manipur in the name of anti-infiltration actions. This law gives unlimited powers to security agencies and does not leave any recourse to the aggrieved citizens, nor does it have any scope to monitor its misuse. 12- year- old Azad Khan was also named in the list of people killed in fake encounters. The commission pointed out that Azad Khan was a student of Class 8 of Phubakchao High School, on 8.1.2009 when he was studying in his house, 30 soldiers entered his house and dragged him out, beat and kicked him mercilessly and shot. Twenty-year-old Sonjit was working with Tata Indicom. He was shot dead while he was in office on duty. A total of 10 bullets were found in his dead body. After the reality of the horrific murder of 12-year-old Azad Khan was exposed and after being caught in this heinous crime red handed, when the army had nothing to say in defense, the Supreme Court had to hand over the matter to the CBI. Major Vijay Singh Balhara was punished for the crime of murder, but apart from this, the atrocities inflicted by the army on innocent civilians by the army have been protected by the provisions of the AFSPA Act. No one else is convicted.
Citizens of Northeast have put up brave resistance movements against AFSPA
Iron lady, Irom Chanu Sharmila’s name comes at the top of the list of people running peaceful protest movement against anti-people black laws across the world. In fact, Manipur has been the worst sufferer among the 7 states of the Northeast that have been persecuted under the guise of AFSPA black law. Immediately after this terrible tool of repression came into existence in 1958, bullets were fired on the citizens of Manipur by helicopters. The ‘Malom massacre’ took place in November 2000 in the same bloody chain of atrocities. Like the current massacre in Nagaland, the 8th Battalion of the Assam Rifles shot dead 10 innocent people at Malom Makha Likhai Namak place near Tulihal Airport in Imphal, which sparked a similar public outcry as now. When no action was taken against the murderer security personnel, Irom Sharmila, who was 28 years old at that time, went on hunger strike till death in Imphal. Three days later, she was arrested for attempting suicide and then hunger strike went for 16 years till 2016 in jail. The police kept trying to break it by forcibly putting a tube in the nose trying to feed her. That tube in her neck had become a body part. The oppressors did not get tired but after 16 years this brave woman who fought valiantly against oppression, gave up. How much does this ‘democratic’ state power need such tools of oppression and terror, what more proof does it need? How fake and ostentatious is this wrapper of bourgeois democracy!!
‘Indian Army, rape us’. The heroic women of Manipur, in 2004, organized a peaceful movement against this deadly tool of repression, AFSPA, like nowhere else in the world. Thangjam Manorama’s house was raided by a contingent of Assam Rifles on July 10, 2004, at 3 a.m. alleging that she was a PLA spy. All the family members were locked in a room and Manorama was dragged by her hair out to the courtyard, stripped naked in front of her family members, beaten black and blue and arrested. Her body returned home after three days. Assam Rifles told that she tried to escape and was killed in encounter. One who ran away should have been shot in the legs, Manorama had no bullets in her legs while 16 bullets were fired in her private parts. This level of barbarity and brutality shook the public psyche as never before. Despite the fierce public outrage, when no action was taken against the killer soldiers, then, realizing the script of Mahasweta Devi’s novel ‘Draupadi’, 12 women resorted to an unprecedented method of Women’s War – Nupi Lane which did not happen anywhere in the whole world. These 12 brave women reached in front of the army headquarters in Imphal and they took off all their clothes one by one. These women, completely naked, were shouting, ‘We are all the mothers of Manorama’ ‘Indian Army, Rape Us, Kill Us. The next day, pictures of those 12 naked women were printed in the media of the country and abroad. Those who saw the picture were angry and ashamed but the government remained unmoved. AFSPA did not go.
In its history of 63 years, if the whole saga of the people’s desperate struggles against the atrocities committed by the security agencies under the guise of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA is written, it will become an epic. Hardly a day goes by when it is not opposed somewhere in the North East states. The Supreme Court has also intervened many times in the case of atrocities being perpetrated by security agencies using this law as a tool, but the Supreme Court has considered its responsibility to be fulfilled by simply saying that, ‘while firing, the security forces should exercise necessary precautions, warnings should be given, more force should not be used than ‘necessary’. This is the reason that despite the long list of atrocities committed by the armed forces during 63-year history of AFSPA, only Major Vijay Singh Balhara has been punished for the brutal day light murder of Azad Khan. In fact, every time the repression of the army has taken place in a very bare and ferocious form and the aggrieved community has stood up in anger and revolt, putting their own lives on firing line, Supreme Court has only sprinkled cold water on the blazing flame of retaliation from the victim masses. The big question mark on our being civilized, AFSPA, remains at its place, atrocities and repression continue unabated. Even if the rope used in strangulation is soft, silky and smooth, life goes out through the same painful process. There is a need to bury this brutal disgusting rope deep, not to soften it.
Repeal AFSPA, the dreaded tool of oppression and state terror
Knowing the history of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958 is enough to know the real character of the current state power in our country and how insignificant is the difference among different colorful political parties that are committed to defend it. In our society, steeped in extreme poverty and ignorance shaded by religious fanaticism, most of the people are unaware of this basic fact about the character of state power and this situation is very favorable for the rulers. That is why it is necessary to reiterate it again and again by political activists while protesting the grave injustice and crippling of democratic rights by the state. All the ‘champions’ of bourgeois democracy, beginning with the ‘statesman’ Nehru era to Modi-Shah regime who hates the very idea of plurality and democracy, viz. Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, Chandrashekhar, Deve Gauda, Narasimha Rao, Manmohan Singh and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, all may have differed on thousand petty matters but all have been found to agree on this issue that the AFSPA, the dreaded tool of state terror remains in the hands of state to terrorize the desperately angry masses in times of ‘need’. How can one, otherwise, fathom that despite the heinous crime being committed repeatedly during its entire history of 63 long years, the AFSPA, which puts humanity to shame, which even the devil can’t raise a hand to justify, remains in place? “The oppressed are allowed every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament”, how correctly the great leader of the world proletariat, Lenin, reveals the true face of bourgeois democracy and the futility of the ‘sacred’ right of the masses to choose their representatives every five years, much eulogized by its paid cheer leaders!!
In the capitalist regime, which we are suffering, the job of the government is to protect and further the interests of 1% capitalists and to keep 99% of the exploited-oppressed class ready to go on getting exploited their labor power, peacefully. The process of exploitation is carried out by ‘commodity-production’ and ‘commodity exchange’ which requires industry and market. The basic mantra of the system of capital is what we are reminded daily, ‘let it be decided by the market forces’. Even if this reality is not told explicitly, the same principle still works, the market decides everything. This is the reason that as long as the market keeps expanding, the stream of capital as a result of labor power-exploitation keeps flowing uninterruptedly and mountain of capital keep growing bigger and bigger till then only the conduct of this bourgeois democracy remains pleasant. The fat-hardened middle class is ready to consume goods in the form of consumer class, only till then the so called ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ remains in place, the green shoots of development are visible. When the same ‘market forces’ inevitably lead to centralization and concentration of capital at one end and the ocean of poverty and pauperization of the whole society on the other as a result of melt down of the middle class and the army of the proletariat grows larger and larger, the ‘market forces’ begin feeling uncomfortable and a prick in its chair. Then it is not possible for the government to distribute equitably the depleting resources of exploitation, diminishing market among all sections of the ruling class. As per rules of capital, it sides with the larger but fewer mountains of monopoly capital who command almost all major sources of production and abandons all other erstwhile representatives of parasite class to swim or drown on their own. Going gets keeping tough and battle of survival hard by each passing day by aggravating and deepening economic crisis for the capitalist sharks and their management committee, the government. Moreover, the process of exploitation and brazen loot of national resources by the corporate sharks that was hidden and concealed so far during ‘normal, peaceful’ days, now gets uncovered to everyone as it gets open, brazen and vulgar by each passing day. To further frighten the rulers, the huge and invincible army of the proletariat growing at equally fast pace, keeps waiting next door for an opportunity to dismantle and bury this whole bloody apparatus of exploitation lock, stock and barrel. Gullible masses may remain oblivious, delusional and confused about this stark reality but there is no confusion about this ‘chronology’ and it always remains vivid in the eyes of the beneficiaries of this exploitative system of capitalism. It is for this reason that the ‘democratic’ government is well aware that surely in the coming bad days, this cloak of democratic hypocrisy will have to be torn off and thrown away, which will generate public anger and that eventuality will require deadly tools of repression to quell it. Crisis of the capitalist system is strangulating it so hard that any further lease of life is possible by only terrorizing the masses. That is why the rulers, whether they are bearded or clean shaven, do not give up these tools. This ‘normal’ capitalist process is applicable in general throughout the country, that is why the horrific oppressive UAPA and Sedition Act are there, applicable throughout the country. Only two examples of the cruelty of these laws are sufficient. A journalist from Kerala has been jailed in the UAPA for more than a year, the government itself does not know what his fault is as no charge sheet is filed and secondly, for reports of giving roti and salt to children in a school for a ‘nutritious lunch’, a journalist has been arrested on charges of sedition!! All shades of oppressors and exploiters, however, forget the historic lesson that mass awakening and uprising against brutal regimes cannot be suppressed forever, howsoever deadly and nasty laws they may be having at their disposal. The onwards historic march of progress can’t be stalled permanently and expropriators cannot escape expropriation.
The sole driving force in production and exchange of commodities under capitalism, is profit and respect of private property. Needs of the society as a whole or social justice are never on its agenda. The micro-minority rules over the vast majority, that’s why there is always a constant fear of this system being disintegrated anytime. Very thought that the reality of their actual business may get exposed to all, scares every brand of rulers and they keep making every coercive instrument of power stronger and deadlier and keep playing every trick to break the unity of the people. This is the reason that minority of any nature can never get justice in capitalist system, whether it is a religious, linguistic minority or a minority of nationality. The only expectation from every kind of minority is that they should surrender unconditionally to the diktats of majority. Each and every minority has to suffer additional oppression. Minority community, whatever type it may be, has, therefore, additional reasons to revolt against this oppressive system. That is why there is a need for additional oppressive tools while dealing with minorities. Draconian laws of UAPA and Sedition Act are there in entire country but in the North East states and Kashmir, in addition to these, there is also AFSPA. There are many nationalities in the North East region. Even if there are only a few people who constitute a nationality, speak a language, profess a religion or no religion at all, everyone deserves justice and respect. Even a single follower of a religion has to feel equally comfortable and proud of his/ her individuality. Is it possible in capitalism, be it India, Pakistan Sri Lanka or England, America or Germany? NO, Never. It was possible in USSR because the vast majority ruled there over miniscule minority. There was no reason to fear from unity of the masses as it would have rather been welcome development as it would consolidate state power. All the production was as per needs of the society hence no crisis of market. More the production, more the comfort for the society as a whole. Those fighting for the honor of their nationalities have, therefore, to understand this brute reality that no matter how many sacrifices they make, they cannot get justice, respect, pride, equality in real sense under capitalist system. Minorities have more reasons than the majority to fight and get rid of this exploitative system once and for all. On the other hand, this bitter reality equally imposes additional responsibility on the majority to support the minorities who are facing additional oppression in their struggle to get justice. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. The people of ‘Mainland’ did never support and participate in the struggle of the repressed people of the North-East and Kashmir. We have let these people down. Had ‘mainland’ people supported the suffering North East and Kashmiri people in their desperate fight, this anti-human AFSFA would have been buried in the rest of the North-East states and Kashmir also like in Punjab, Tripura and Meghalaya. Capitalism-imperialism-fascism has to be taken on its target by all segments of toiling masses unitedly. Learn from farmers. Rise unitedly against all draconian laws, UAPA, Sedition Act and AFSPA and build a fierce wave of mass movements across the country to force this insensitive government to repeal these inhuman laws.