The armed forces special power act was passed by the parliament in 1958, for the north eastern regions of india.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as "disturbed", an officer of the armed forces has the powers to:
-Fire upon or use other kinds of force even if it causes death
-Arrest without a warrant and with the use of "necessary" force anyone who has committed certain offences or is suspected of having done so
-enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.
Army officers also have legal immunity for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under that law. Nor is the government's judgment on why an area is found to be disturbed subject to judicial review.
This law was passed as a response to the naxalism, Maoism and the increasing violence and tension some of the North Eastern territories, this classifying them as 'disturbed region and was Thus, according to the government, one of the possible solutions to deal with the problems there.
However, taking advantage of the powers vested to the Army by this act, the Assam Rifles a paramilitary force in Assam allegedly killed 10 young, innocent, Meitei* men in Manipur. This was not the only incident when the powers vested upon the military forces were allegedly misused. Right from the time the Act was passed, there were several instances due to which the masses of North Eastern Regions of India had been pushing for the abolition of the Act. However, the killings in Manipur triggered off a major response by the masses and by Irom Sharmila, a Meitei Manipuri human rights activist who declared a fast until death till the act was withdrawn.
Here we are talking about Irom Sharmila; Age 39 yrs
Often referred to as the modern day female version of Gandhi and the Iron Lady of India, Irom has been on a fast until death since November 2000. The Reason- her campaign against the Armed Forces Powers Act.
Not many of us in this part of the country know about her, but hers is a story which needs to be told. She doesn't drink a drop of water and doesn't let a particle of food touch her tongue. More so, she cleans her teeth with cotton to avoid even a single drop of water to pass through her teeth, touch her tongue and roll down her throat. Ever since she went on this fast, innumerable attempts have been made to force feed her.
During these 9 yrs, various human rights organisations have visited her and innumerable promises have been made. In the year 2006, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured that the Centre would consider their demand sympathetically. The Centre then set up a five-member committee under the chairmanship of Justice BP Jeevan Reddy, former judge of the Supreme Court. The BP Jeevan Reddy committee submitted its recommendations on June 6, 2005. The 147-page report recommends that "the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, should be repealed". However, the government failed to act on the recommendations.
Ever Since she declared the fast, she has been arrested on the Charges of Attempted Suicide and has been taken under judicial custody. She was taken to the AlMS in delhi and since then, a plastic and pipe was inserted through her nose to force feed her a cocktail of vitamins, minerals, laxatives, protein supplements and lentil soup which is force fed to her 5 times a day.
Since 2000, every time she declares the fast, she is arrested, force fed and then released. once released she again declares the fast and gets arrested and this practice of arrest, release and re-arrest has been going on since then.
The people from Manipur, human rights organisations and otherwise just a lot of citizens have been demanding justice and the withdrawal of the act since 2000 and hence demanding justice for Irom Sharmila. Various Ministers, from time to time have made various promises to her. however, for reasons untold, no action is being taken against the AFSPA.
This is not just a violation of ones civil rights, but its the violation of ones existence.
Its also strange how a funny 5 hour fast by Karunanidhi attracts so much attention and Irom Sharmila's fast just goes un noticed by the center, and till an extent my the media too. Its not about the loss of the life of an individual, its about the impotency of the entire government to come up with a solution for a problem, address the grievances and thus give a better life to the people in one of the world's greatest democracies.
*Meitei is a major ethnic group in manipur.