Why India’s AFSPA should be scrapped ?

June 16, 2010

by Naga Peoples Movement for Human Rights(NPMHR)

June 16, 2010

NPMHR categorically reaffirms its position to continue campaigning for the total repeal of all draconian legislations, especially the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) of 1958, which represent one of the most dehumanizing tool that Modern India has ever produced. India today stands at very crucial point to decide whether it will embrace fully the spirit of accountability and transparency to progress towards a functional democracy or slide towards a rigid militaristic state with impunity as a banner, negating its pious stance of upholding the Gandhian philosophy of non-violence and Ahimsa. Human rights are universal and the Indian Constitution enshrined the fundamental rights and directive principles to nurture the core values of humane aspiration on which the Indian independence was fought for against the external colonizers. However even after more than 60 years of its liberation from the clutches of colonial imperialist powers, India has failed to germinate the basic fundamental human rights such as the `right to life’ for all its citizens as guaranteed under Article 21 of its Constitution, creating a serious democratic deficit especially in its governance in the Northeast and other indigenous/ tribal peoples areas and minority nationalities/communities under its dominion.

The governance of Naga homeland in the Northeast frontier is reflective of India’s vivid demonstration of lawlessness and impunity in the past half century raising huge questions on the existence of `rule of law’ to measure its democratic credentials. The second Indo-Naga ceasefire signed in 1997 between the Government of India and the Naga resistance group represented by NSCN, has been on for almost a `decade and half’ giving a respite to the active political armed confrontation. However, after these many years of political negotiation and peace process between the two separate entities to the dialogue, no concrete semblance of sustainable peace has been visible despite the many `off the record’ rhetoric’s made so far.

The 6th June 2010 massacre of 2 innocent students/civilians at Mao-gate by the Indian state forces (MR), the injuring of more than hundred women and children, displacement of thousands of innocent Naga villagers is a symptomatic demonstration of India’s insincerity to genuine peace besides its interwoven proxy war with the `politics of territoriality’ under its jurisdiction. The official assertion that Indo-Naga ceasefire is operational only within the borders of Indian created state of Nagaland and not the Naga-(home)land, besides the utterance of threats to use force, by the Union Home Secretary, GK Pillai, at this juncture, to scuttle the nonviolent democratic movement of the Nagas Hills administered areas under Indian state of Manipur epitomize the dangerous misuse of power by the Indian internal affairs ministry through the use of threats and violence, to impose its diktats. NPMHR considers violence as not just physical alone but has emotional, social, cultural and psychological content. The AFSPA continues to be in force in the greater Naga areas even today despite the ceasefire agreement signed and political process to resolve the Naga political issue has been on for more than a decade.

NPMHR once again raise our profound concern over the continuous justification, glorification and promotion of violent means and structure like the AFSPA by the Indian military, which was used in the past to dominate and occupy our homeland. Besides it has raise uncomfortable questions of sincerity on the part of the Government of India towards its commitment to the Indo-Naga Peace process when the Indian military openly defends a tool of violence and dehumanization such as the use of AFSPA as justified. AFSPA is a systematic tool of the Indian state to terrorize and dehumanized the civilian populations under its occupation besides enveloping its militaristic design under the banner of `disturbed area’ notification which shields the heinous crimes against humanity committed, from the eyes of conscientious Indians and the international observers. The extraordinary powers given AFSPA is not for counter-operation against armed resistance movement but a systematic military structure to psychologically wreck, maim and dominate the civil populations under its operations.

NPMHR’s position against the continuance of such black laws, in one of the largest democratic state in the world, has been further sharpened since the promulgation of AFSPA has direct and intrinsic connection, to suppression and militarization of Naga homeland under the justification of `quelling a few misguided Naga rebels’ following the early years of India’s Independence. The target period for use of AFSPA than was just for `(within) a few months’ but which in due course led to a prolonged and protracted low intensity conflict of more then 60 years. Initially the operation was limited within the tri-junction of Indo-China-Burma axis `frontier excluded areas’ of the Naga homeland but gradually the whole India’s northeastern region besides Kashmir has been brought under its operations. How long and how far removed can the central India Adivasis belt, famously tagged as Naxalite belt or Maoist red corridor or say the majority area of Indian state, remain free from the clutches of military apparatus intrusion and dominance on the civilian space? Indian state openly admits today how the counter-insurgency paramilitary force such as Assam Rifles that has been used in the Northeast were all manned by the Indian Army officials besides the ordinary soldiers. The danger of allowing the military to takeover all areas of internal dissent on governance such as the Naxal issues are posing serious threat to the future of India’s democracy. The excessive use of Indian army `in aid of civil administration under exceptional circumstance’ has continually eaten into the democratic foundation corroding its essence considerably till date. The citizens who are for a functional democratic India must seriously ponder on the future of its Democracy.

NPMHR outrightly protests against continuation of AFSPA and the justification of its persistent usage for normal `law and order’ problems within paranoid national security schemes, which presents a serious blot on the white Image of Indian Democracy. The Indian state has so far relied on repressive legislation overseen by compliant judiciary and enforced by its military force(s) in the governance of the Naga homeland. The active whitewashing of the bloodstained AFSPA demeans the Indian state’s commitment to pursue peaceful approach towards resolving long standing issues such as the ongoing Indo-Naga political negotiation process.

The experiences of living under intense militarization for more than half century within the purview of martial law have shown the real and paradoxical content of Indian Democracy. The Indian state has systematically used the provisions under AFSPA to impose its authority by substituting the powers of the state through repression and manipulation, for the consent of the people.

AFSPA must be scrapped since it raises questions of viability as to how a violent military structure coexists with a legitimate search for just peace within Indian democratic space. India as a member of UN Human Rights Council must make its position clear by demonstrating its sincere commitment to the various international obligations it has been bound with due to its commitment to uphold human rights principles, as ratified previously to bolster its democratic image. However, impunity, rape, wanton violence, environmental destruction, cultural genocide, developmental aggression, forceful resource exploitation, systematic planned transfer of populations to drown or marginalize indigenous peoples to alienate their land and territories, distortion of history and disempowerment through alien legal system, forced labour, torture, criminalizing indigenous institutions, militarization, racism, stigmatization, socio-economic deprivation, etc will be perpetuated again if the relationship between Indian state(s) and the indigenous peoples or submerged minority nationalities, are shaped by distrust and fear instead of trust, well being and hope.

Shall we allow the future to be dominated by violent paradigm such as the continuing use of AFSPA? It is time India gives space for Democracy and its cherished values to reemerge instead of suppressing the genuine democratic voice of  “We the people” which continues to remain excluded under the tyrannous rule. India must today prove that it seriously subscribe to the democratic ideals and upholds universal human rights principles and practices. `India shining’ will emerge when India authentically makes its bold move to fully embrace democracy and dismantle the violent structures on which it has relied to govern the ungovernable zones and to promote abnormal dispensation as normal credence of democracy. Indian state needs to be more accommodative and understanding in this new century where its prestige as a major international player does not succumb to its own dubious play of trampling over the rights of a minor Naga nation by it frontiers. For India to fully demonstrate its willingness to explore all ways to reach a just, mutually agreed negotiated settlement with peaceable Naga nation, it has to promote genuine democracy of respecting the sovereign voice of the people to determine their own future. Kuknalim!