Insights into Editorial: Afspa in Manipur
Insights into Editorial: Afspa in Manipur
04 January 2017
Due to the disturbance and insurgency in the state, the Government of India promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 in Manipur State. Since 1980, the whole of Manipur has been a “disturbed area” under the Act. Vide this Act, the security forces have been given some extra powers so as to operate against the insurgents in the disturbed areas.
Why people in Manipur are not happy with this law?
- The power under the Section 4(a) of AFSP Act has hurt the citizens of Manipur the most as they feel that the Act confers the armed forces with broadly defined powers to shoot to kill and that this is a law, which fosters a climate in which the agents of law enforcement are able to use excessive force with impunity.
- People in Manipur feel that they have been deprived of the spirit of liberty, freedom and democracy for too long a period. The exercise by the armed forces of the unchecked powers to arrest, search, seize and even shoot to kill conferred under Section 4 of the Act has resulted in large-scale violation of the fundamental rights of the citizens under Articles 14,19,21,22 and 25 of the Constitution.
- It is alleged that security forces have destroyed homes and other structures presuming them to be used by insurgents under provisions of Section 4(b) of AFSPA. Manipuris also feel that arrests without warrants is a serious encroachment on the right to liberty of a person. The power of search and seizure under Section 4(d) has been extensively used by the armed forces in cordon and search operations leading to widespread violation of fundamental rights of citizens and the forces have kept arrested persons (Section 5) for several days in their custody.
- Due to protection under Section 6 of the Act, some security force personnel even violated the human rights of people and left the victims without any effective remedy. The failure to identify those responsible for human rights violations and to bring them to justice has meant that some members of the security force continue to believe that they are above law and can violate human rights with impunity.
But, why AFSPA should continue in Manipur?
- If discontinued here, it will cause a chain reaction in all states where the Act has been enforced.
- No armed force would like to carry out any operation in the insurgent affected areas without proper legal protection for its personnel.
- It will demoralise the armed forces and all initiative will be lost.
- Whenever any offensive action is taken by armed forces, the militant groups will instigate the people/local authorities to initiate legal cases against the armed forces. Justice may be biased under the influence of militants.
- The militants will get an upper hand and may be difficult to contain.
- Incidents of extortion from the civilian population/government organisations will go unchecked.
- Civil administration will be overrun by the militants and there will be chaos all around.
What needs to be done now?
- The general administration in Manipur is not able to give effective justice to the people, with the result that it has to depend on the security forces for its normal functioning. Therefore, the forces operating in the state have to be honest, law abiding and must respect the rights of the people of the state.
- The commanders at all levels should follow the principle of “use of minimum force” required for effective action. They should brief their men to respect all womenfolk. In case any woman is to be arrested, then it should be done with the help of a lady police/ force personnel, who should also remain present during interrogation.
- While carrying out search operations, the force personnel should associate a local respected person and also the owner of the house, and after the search, the owner should be permitted to search the search party is he so desires.
- One must challenge before opening fire and to ensure that one fires only in self-defence. A grievance cell should be opened at Sector Headquarters/ Battalion Headquarters so that the civilians can lodge complaints against the force personnel if they so desire and the commander should take necessary action as deemed fit. Police representatives must be associated with every operation conducted by the security forces.
- The training should be of high level so that the armed force may be able to handle all types of situations with professional competence. It is high time that the state police is trained to take over operational responsibilities from the Army and the BSF.
- The normal operations may be conducted by the state armed police and only major and pinpointed operations be left for the armed forces. Junior level personnel should be properly briefed to not to over react to any sensitive situation.
- It is also important to evolve a mechanism to deal/ tackle with overground support structures that are generally well-connected with local politicians and are regarded in the society.
- Everything depends on intelligence and hence we must sharpen the skills of the armed forces for collection of hard intelligence. Senior commanders should handle civil society sensibly so as to extract sympathy and maximum information from them. This will also help in changing the perception of the local population in the larger interest of the Government/ Nation.
Security forces should be very careful while operating in the Northeast and must not give any chance to the militants to exploit the situation. Indiscriminate arrests and harassment of people out of frustration for not being able to locate the real culprits should be avoided. All good actions of the force get nullified with one wrong action. Any person, including the supervisory staff, found guilty of violating law should be severely dealt with. The law is not defective, but it is its implementation that has to be managed properly. The local people have to be convinced with proper planning and strategy.