Imagine waking up to a morning sun with a fear that it might be your last day on earth. Imagine walking on a street with the fear that a bullet meant for you might have just left a gun. Imagine a stalker caressing your brow with cold metal and your near and dear ones either being raped or being butchered nearby. Imagine the terrifying knock on your door and olive green-clad men trudging the sanctum of your make-belief bliss.
If these thoughts have brought a chill down your spine, then Welcome to North East India – which is crushed simultaneously under the boots of the armed forces, as also the militants. The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, formulated to decimate militancy, has unfortunately become the symbol of hate, oppression and high-handedness. The license to arrest, search and shoot anyone merely on suspicion accorded under the Act is alleged to have been heavily misutilised. While Irom Sharmila’s six years of iconic protest against the Act has brought the issue to ‘national limelight’, life under constant terror of militancy can’t be ignored.
The Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy Committee, set up to review its provisions, recommended explicitly that while the law should be repealed, the army should stay in the region. The report submitted to the government in June 2005 illustrates the representation made to it by different groups in Manipur. Majority of the representation contended that under the guise of the AFSPA Act, several illegal killings, torture and rapes have taken place as there exists no machinery to check the excesses. But they also recommended the Indian Army to stay back to fight for them against militancy.
The armed forces, while reflecting the might of the state, also represent ‘the rule of the law’. If that pretext is not compromised, the war on terror would have an ally in the form of law abiding citizens. The war, then, would already have been half won, albeit without much effort. And Hearts too...