Saturday, August 23, 2014

Time to Discuss AFSPA

Manipur's iconic social activist Irom Sharmila's release was a golden opportunity for the Governments of India and the state of Manipur to explore a way to bring closure to the over half a century-long conflict in the beautiful but troubled Northeastern State. But as usual, the Ibobi Singh government has done the one and only thing it knows to do: arrest her again. It is precisely this lack of creativity, this refusal to engage politically that has reduced the beautiful state of Manipur to the status of an Indian colony, ruled by far away Delhi and their local agents.

However, whether this new round of arrests, following 14 years of incarceration in a hospital ironically named after Jawaharlal Nehru, will stand legally is another matter. AFSPA is an issue that is not just alive but continues to burn, whether in Manipur or Kashmir. There is no sense in screaming that these areas are integral parts of the country while denying them the most integral guarantee of our Constitution: the right to life with dignity. This matter cannot be brushed under the carpet anymore - Manipur has lived under AFSPA for over half-a-century, entire generations have grown up under the gun of the state. This, in a land that takes pride that it overthrew a colonial power through non-violent means.

The problem of insurgency in Manipur is a political issue - it is a consequence of several factors going back to the colonization of the subcontinent. A political solution is required and that will take a lot of hard work by leaders who take an oath to defend the Constitution. This hard work has been put off for too long and in the mean time, generations have grown up fearing and hating their own country and their own army. This is simply unacceptable - the Union is incomplete without Manipur and the Manipuri people must have a stake in their future.

The time for AFSPA to go has come - it has been too long and too much has been lost. It cannot be done after things have settled, because things will not settle as long as it is in force. AFSPA is a shame on India's democracy, an insult to every teaching of Mahatma Gandhi. It must go - now. 

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