Angela Davis appeals to President to repeal AFSPA

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At an exclusive meet-the-press in Mumbai, American black feminist activist and human rights defender, Angela Davis joined feminists in India spearheading a global women’s campaign appealing to the President of India to use his Constitutional powers and repeal the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). In doing so, she extends her solidarity to the struggles of women in India against the impunity granted to security forces under the AFSPA and the consequent widespread violation of rights in all areas where this law has been in force. In particular, Ms Davis salutes the historic struggle of Irom Chanu Sharmila whose 16 year long fast against the AFSPA helped foreground the issue both nationally, and internationally, saying “I am utterly inspired by Irom Sharmila’s strength and perseverance.”

There has been a global campaign of feminists seeking an end to AFSPA.

The full list of signatories can be seen here.

Women Of The World Stand With Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA Now!

Statement from Stand With Irom Sharmila campaign

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Sand Sculpture at Cuttack, Orissa by artist Himanshu Shekhar Parida, in solidarity with Irom Sharmila’s struggle for repeal of AFSPA,  to mark 15 years of completion of  her hunger protest in 2015. (Image courtesy E-Pao)

“My struggle will continue until AFSPA is struck down” said Irom Sharmila Chanu, the poet and activist from Manipur whose 16-year long hunger strike against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act has made her a global symbol of non-violent resistance. Sharmila was speaking at a press conference organised on October 1, 2016 by the “Stand With Irom Sharmila: Repeal AFSPA” Campaign, a global campaign endorsed by nearly 1000 women – from pioneers of global women’s movements to grassroot activists who have dedicated their lives to the struggle for women’s rights and freedoms.

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a colonial law first promulgated by the British rulers of India in 1942 to try and quell the freedom struggle. It has been continuously operative in several north-eastern states, including Sharmila’s home state of Manipur since 1958. It was also imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990. Under this law, armed forces and other security forces in “disturbed areas” have the license to shoot to kill anyone on suspicion; make arrests without warrants; enter and search any home or establishment; detain and question anyone. Armed forces personnel and security forces have complete immunity for actions taken under this law, and their prosecution requires prior sanction of the government, under Section 6 of the AFSPA. RTI information has disclosed that Sanction for prosecution of armed forces even for egregious human rights violation has never been granted. Nor is the government’s decision on declaring an area “disturbed” subject to judicial review.
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A Fast That Ended in Hunger- Thoughts on Irom Sharmila and Hunger Strikes: Anirban Bhattacharya

Guest Post by Anirban Bhattacharya

Iram Sharmila Mural at ‘Freedom Square’ JNU. Art by Shijo Suleman and the Fearless Collective. Photograph by Rebecca John. Image, courtesy, ‘The Great Walls of India’ blog on Graffiti and Wall Art

We may have differences in our political approach as to the way and means of the struggle, but what must be stated at the outset is the fact that Irom Sharmila has certainly been an icon of resistance and inspiration in the struggle against AFSPA.

Her 16 year long hunger strike has been a grim reminder of the crimes against the Manipuri people – rape, torture, fake encounters and massacres – committed by the armed forces with impunity under such draconian Acts like AFSPA. But her abrupt decision to end her fast accompanied with her willingness to contest elections in the upcoming assembly elections have met with a mixture of shock, scepticism, disappointment, puzzlement and even anger amongst her people in Manipur and even her close associates. There also seems to be a resentment against her being in a relationship and her plan to marry. Such scrutiny/dragging of her personal life are, however, quite deplorable. But overall, the disappointment with the decision of Irom to quit fasting and contest elections is so strong that, after breaking her fast in the hospital, when she tried to go to a local activist’s shelter, the locals disapproved. She had to seek temporary shelter in an ISKCON temple along with her police guards and then was shifted to a police station and finally she was forced to retreat to the same hospital that housed her for last 16 years. Now, this is telling. But what does it tell? The answer to this question would take us away from criticisms about any particular individual, but to the evaluation of the very method of struggle that she had been a part of, its scope, effectivity and limitations.

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Kashmir Issue – A Brief Report on Solidarity Actions in Punjab: Jagmohan Singh

Guest Post by JAGMOHAN SINGH

Clear Message from the Revolutionary Democratic Movement in Punjab

We Firmly Stand with the People of Kashmir

Once again, Kashmir is boiling with rage. The pent-up anger of the people of Kashmir against their brutal oppression by the Indian security forces has erupted in powerful massive protests in the form of gatherings, demonstrations and skirmishes and clashes with these forces, in which more than 75 people have been killed, many blinded and more than thousand injured so far. It is more than 60 days now since the cold-blooded killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani by the security forces on 8th of July. Yet the anger of the people is finding no let-up. Brave Kashmiris are valiantly fighting against the atrocities and brutalities of the security forces. They are coming out on the roads time and again, in large numbers, caring little for the restrictions, curfews and even firings. They deserve our salute.

The just and righteous struggle of the people of Kashmir has gained support from variety of sections of the people world over. In India too, the reports of such solidarity actions supporting the Kashmiri people are pouring in. In Punjab also some such actions have taken place. The solidarity activity in Punjab, scattered over a wide area and taking different forms such as conventions, public meetings, demonstrations and other forms of mass-propaganda, was chiefly organized by the communist revolutionary, revolutionary democratic and other pro-people forces active in the state. Almost all the sections of society such as peasants, workers, employees, intellectuals, students and youth participated in these solidarity actions; especially the leading sections and front rank activists and fighters of the revolutionary democratic movement of the state participated in considerable numbers and with a marked conviction.

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Kashmir Scholars Action Group Letter to the UN High Commission for Human Rights on the Situation in Jammu&Kashmir: KSAG

Guest Post by Kashmir Scholars Action Group

To Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Re: Urgent action needed to end state violence in Indian-controlled Kashmir

We are writing to you to express our concern about the situation in Indian-controlled Kashmir where the already subjected population is currently living in a state of siege due to the massive violence unleashed by the Indian forces. We appreciate your decision to create a fact-finding mission and deplore the refusal of the Indian government to allow access to UN human rights monitors (1). In the absence of such a mission, we feel it incumbent upon civil society groups to provide regular updates on the situation.

We, the Kashmir Scholars Action Group, are an interdisciplinary group of scholars of various nationalities engaged in research on the region of Kashmir. Our research on Kashmir, its history, its consequences for the region and beyond, and its possible resolution, delves into the implications for an internationally mediated political solution, and is of relevance to policy makers. Based on our long and active engagement with civil society groups in Indian-controlled Kashmir, we have undertaken to document and communicate the situation on ground since the Indian state’s violence against civilians has continued to mount from July 7th, 2016 onwards. Each of us has written about Kashmiri history, society and politics; and we are particularly concerned about the present conditions of violence. We write to you now as part of our urgent efforts to check the brutality of the state’s response to Kashmiris, scores of whom have mobilized in support of their demand for azadi (freedom). Even as we will go on to list some of the details of the humanitarian crisis, we wish to make clear that we are calling not only for the resumption of basic civil services, the rule of law, and the restoration of human rights in Kashmir, but, most importantly, for an internationally mediated political solution for this ongoing crisis. Continue reading “Kashmir Scholars Action Group Letter to the UN High Commission for Human Rights on the Situation in Jammu&Kashmir: KSAG”

In Solidarity With Irom Sharmila – Repeal AFSPA: Forum Against Oppression of Women

Statement issued by FORUM AGAINST OPPRESSION OF WOMEN

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Let Us Work Together To Create New Strategies Of Struggle Against Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

We wholeheartedly support the decision of Irom Sharmila to withdraw, her fast of nearly 16 years for the revocation of AFSPA, we salute Irom Sharmila for her undying spirit, heroic struggle and undeterred determination in struggle against AFSPA.
It is our responsibility to take the struggle further and also support Irom Sharmila in her continuing struggle against AFSPA.
 
The history of post-Independence India is also the history of subjugation of the citizens of the North-eastern region. There has been a systematic crushing by the Indian state of their aspirations, and a consistent betrayal of promises made. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was enacted as long ago as 1958, in order to suppress the genuine protests of the region’s inhabitants.
 
What is essentially a political issue has been treated simplistically as a law and order problem. AFSPA gives unbridled powers to the army and airforce. (Mizoram is the only part of India where the air force has actually bombed its own people.) The original Act allowed state governments to declare an area to be ‘disturbed’ and to call in the army. A 1972 amendment further allowed the central government to override state governments in order to do the same in any area.
 
AFSPA gives army officers the power to arrest without warrant, to shoot and kill on mere suspicion, to destroy property, and many other such draconian powers. The armed forces are required to act “in aid of” civilian authorities, but that caveat exists only on paper. In reality the army has virtually taken over large areas for decades together now, becoming a force unto itself, answerable to none. No army personnel may be prosecuted without permission from the central government – a permission hardly ever granted. Even bodies like the National and State Human Rights Commissions have little jurisdiction when it comes to human rights violations in the context of AFSPA.
 
What might have served at best as a short-term measure has become a permanent feature in Manipur and most of the North East (except Tripura where AFSPA was withdrawn in May 2015) and some parts of Kashmir. Yet the AFSPA is in violation of various international instruments that India has ratified, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the Convention Against Torture, the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials, the UN Body of Principles for Protection of All Persons Under Any Form of Detention, and the UN Principles on Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-Legal and Summary Executions.  It is patently unconstitutional, which makes it all the more unfortunate that the Indian Supreme Court got carried away by security concerns and upheld the constitutional validity of the Act.
 
In Manipur there has been widespread unhappiness, with the continuing abuse of human rights by the armed forces under cover of AFSPA causing bitter grievances to surface. Protests against these abuses are a constant feature. In one unique protest in 2004, angered by the custodial rape, torture and killing of 32-year-old Manorama who was picked up from her home on “suspicion”, a number of women paraded naked in front of an army base in protest against the army’s atrocities against women. The other unique and non-violent protest has been that of Irom Sharmila, poet and activist from Manipur. In what has possibly been the longest fast-unto-death anywhere, she has spent more than fifteen years now refusing food and demanding the repeal of AFSPA. For these fifteen years she has lived under arrest and been kept alive through intravenous force-feeding by the authorities.

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Statement On the Unfolding Situation in Kashmir : NSI Delhi Chapter

Guest Post by New Socialist Initiative, Delhi Chapter

The valley of Kashmir is on the boil again. Forsaking the so-called normal routines of their lives, people are on the streets. Not just young men, but even children and women are out, challenging the military might of the Indian state. Any fear of the police and army appears to have been discarded. Police stations and even CRPF camps have been attacked. A popular upsurge, it is energised by mass fury. Forty people have lost their lives in one week at the hands of the Indian security establishment. Hundreds of others have suffered serious eye and other injuries from presumedly ‘non-lethal’ pellets used by the police. While people are out confronting the police, para-military and army, the other organs of the Indian state in Kashmir, the elected government and its bureaucracy, elected members of the legislature, panchayats, etc. are in a rathole, fearing public appearance. It is just the people of Kashmir valley versus the institutions of organised violence of the Indian state.

While the immediate cause of popular anger is the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen militant Burhan Wani, reasons for this anger go much deeper and have a longer history. The stifling and repression of the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination stands at the root of this conflict. This repression has taken on extreme violent forms. For twenty five years now, the Kashmir valley has been among the most militarised places in the world. More than half a million troops of Indian army and para-military forces have been stationed in the state and its border with Pakistan. Rashtriya Rifles and CRPF camps dot the land scape. Highway checkpoints and random searches are part of everyday life. Thousands of men have disappeared, been picked up by security forces, thrown in the black hole of interrogation camps, often ending up in unmarked graves. The hated AFSPA gives Indian security forces legal cover to assault basic rights of Kashmiris to live a life of elementary dignity. If an average valley resident is alienated from the normal practices of the Indian state such as elections and its administrative initiatives, s/he harbours deep resentment against the presence of Indian security forces in their homeland. This resentment has erupted in mass protests again and again.

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