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Withdraw Armed Forces Special Powers Act, say activists

Posted on Feb 06, 05:57PM | IANS

Imphal, Feb 6 : A week-long campaign will be launched across the country Mar 8 to demand revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), an activist said here.

The Save Sharmila campaign by the National Alliance for People's Movement (NAPM) will be launched on International Women's Day.

Irom Sharmila Chanu, a human rights activist, has been on an indefinite hunger strike for nearly a decade in Manipur, demanding the withdrawal of AFSPA from the state.

"The campaign is to lend support to Sharmila's long-pending demand to repeal the draconian APSPA in Manipur," Faisal Khan, coordinator of the Alliance and Save Sharmila campaign, told IANS Wednesday.

"The objective of the campaign is to create awareness among people of those states where the AFSPA is not in force. Such laws have created a void between the people of these states and the people of Jammu and Kashmir, Manipur and other northeastern states, where AFSPA is in force," he added.

Khan's five attempts to meet her were thwarted by the state government. "We will seek permission to meet Sharmila on her birthday (Mar 14). If the government refuses to let us meet Sharmila, we will court arrest," Khan said.

Dubbed the 'Iron Lady of Manipur', Sharmila began her fast Nov 2, 2000, after witnessing the killing of 10 people by the army at a bus stop. She was arrested after she began her protest and was charged with attempt to suicide. She was sent to a prison hospital in Imphal where she has been force-fed via a nasal drip.

She is currently lodged in Jawaharlal Nehru Institute of Medical Sciences in Imphal.

The AFSPA was passed in 1990 to grant special powers and immunity from prosecution to security forces to deal with raging insurgencies in northeastern states.

Amnesty International has campaigned vociferously against the legislation, which it sees as a violation of international human rights laws.

Several human rights groups, including the North East Students' Organisation, have also been demanding withdrawal of the AFSPA from the northeast.

However, army officials maintain that it is for the central and the state governments to decide whether to revoke or continue the AFSPA.

"Human right groups never speak against the violence committed against security forces. For the men in uniform, the AFSPA gives them human rights protection," said an army official involved in counter-insurgency operations in Manipur.

Meghalaya Governor R.S. Mooshahary, who favoured the repeal of AFSPA, said: "The AFSPA should be repealed and the Criminal Procedure Code must be amended to protect the rights of security forces and civilians."