Militarization and AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act)

Manipur regained independence along with India in August 1947, but on October 15, 1949, the last king, Budhachandra, signed a Merger agreement India. It became a Part C state in the Indian union, creating widespread discontentment. People struggled for recognition as a full-fledged state, while some rebels kept up a demand for self-determination.

Although Manipur became a full state in 1972, its economy which had deteriorated under colonial rule, continued to decline. The Indian state responded violently to insurgent groups. By the turn of the century, there were over 30 armed insurgent groups in Manipur, including United National Liberation Front (UNLF),
People's Revolutionary Party of Kangleipak (PREPAK), the Kuki National Army (KNA) and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM). Some were separatists, while others demanded proper people-oriented development within the Indian union.

The main counter-insurgency measure taken by the Indian government is imposition of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). This Act was imposed in 1980 as a temporary measure, to curb insurgency, yet it has continued for well over three decades. AFSPA grants extraordinary powers to the armed forces: they can shoot and kill at will, simply on ground of suspicion that the person is a threat to law and order. As is well documented, this law has led to major atrocities by military and paramilitary personnel, with impunity granted to the perpetrators.

Over the years there have been countless rapes, encounter deaths and other atrocities by armed forces personnel, with the culprits protected by AFSPA against judicial processes. In the majority of cases, there is no documentation—no reports or investigation. A partial and incomplete list of violations details fourteen massacres, killing over 100 persons (1980–2000); fifty-seven instances of extrajudicial execution of individuals (1980–2005); torture of eighty-three persons (1994–2004); ten cases of rape (1974–2004); and eighteen cases of enforced disappearance (1980–2000). This is bound to be only a fraction of the complete figures.

Families of victims filed cases in the Supreme Court against 1,700 extra-judicial killings in Manipur. In 2013 the Supreme Court of India confirmed that armed forces personnel were involved in rapes and killing of innocent people in Manipur, under cover of AFSPA. According to a report to the Supreme Court,

compiled by judges of district courts in Manipur, “Crimes against women, more particularly relating to sexual harassment committed by armed forces, are now increasing in some states like ours. They (armed forces) think themselves placed at the elevated status of impunity by the legislation and think wrongly they are given license to do whatever they like.” Some of the confirmed cases include: rape of a 15-year-old schoolgirl by two army personnel on October 4, 2004 -- she committed suicide the same day; and killing of Amina, a young mother who was shot by CRPF personnel while putting her baby to sleep at her home in Naorem village.

Relentless crimes against ordinary women, children and men have led to continuous demand by women’s groups and human rights groups, against the imposition of AFSPA, and intensive struggles for justice. Women’s groups expressed strong opposition to AFSPA since it was imposed, in 1980.

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