Tag Archives: AFSPA

Irom Sharmila is in love

…which in these dark times is so life-affirming:

I can spot a Khushwant Singh, a Khalil Gibran and a Chetan Bhagat in the pile of books. “Most of these books have been gifted to me by my lover,” she says. This is the first I’ve heard of a man in her life. I hesitate, but Sharmila is clearly keen to talk about him. A Britisher based in Kerala, he got to know about Sharmila after he read Burning Bright, a 2009 book on the Manipuri struggle written by Deepti Priya Mehrotra and published by Penguin. “He wrote me a letter after he read the book. We have been exchanging letters since then,” she says shyly. Continue reading Irom Sharmila is in love

Sedition: ‘The highest duty of a citizen’

Sedition: the attempt “to excite disaffection towards the Government established by law in India”, a crime under Section 124 A of the Indian Penal Code, a provision introduced by the British colonial government in 1860.

The only revisions to this colonial legal provision since its passing have been over the years, to remove anachronistic terms like “Her Majesty”, “the Crown Representative”, “British India”, “British Burma” and “Transportation for life or any shorter term”.

But it seems “Disaffection towards the government”, the archaic usage notwithstanding, is a timeless crime. Section 124A, therefore, these few cosmetic changes apart, has remained unchanged for the last 150 years.

Continue reading Sedition: ‘The highest duty of a citizen’

Repeal AFSPA: Committee for the Release of Dr Binayak Sen Mumbai

Irom Sharmila has been on a fast unto death for the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) after troops of the Assam Rifles gunned down 10 civilians at Malom near Imphal airport on November 2, 2000. She is periodically arrested and force-fed by the Indian state.

Dear Prime Minister, Home Minister and Sonia Gandhi,

We have noticed a striking anomaly in the way the armed forces and the state treats the people of Kashmir and the Northeast. When contemplating the use of the armed forces in the forest belt, the armed forces and the state concluded (quite correctly, in our opinion) that they should not be used against the people of this region, including the Maoists, since ‘they are our people’. Yet the very same armed forces have no compunction about being deployed against the people of Kashmir and the Northeast, and the state agrees! Worse still, the armed forces insist that they cannot carry out their duties without AFSPA, which allows them to rape, torture and kill with impunity.

So what is happening here? Are the people of Kashmir and the Northeast not ‘our people’? This is indeed the message that comes across. And if these people feel that they are not regarded or treated as ‘our people’ by the state and armed forces of India, is it surprising that many of them do not want to belong to India?

In fact, AFSPA allows the armed forces to commit atrocities that would be considered war crimes even if they were directed at a foreign enemy. There is no justification for keeping it on the statute books, because it is incompatible with international humanitarian law. Its enforcement in these states has been one of the main reasons why there has been no resolution of the conflicts in them for decades. Consulting the armed forces about the repeal of a law that allows them unlimited power is worse than useless: why would they ever agree? Surely you ought instead to be consulting people like Irom Sharmila, who has been waging a heroic and totally non-violent struggle against AFSPA for ten years!

Shouldn’t the government be asking her why she is ready to sacrifice her life to get this law repealed? And taking her answer deadly seriously before she dies?


Kashmir, September 2010. The Reichstag Fire (dispersed) Redux ?

(Apologies for cross posting on the Reader List)

As if by magic, those who had hidden themselves for the past few months in Kashmir are leading mobs and setting schools and public buildings on fire. And many more people have died tragic and unnecessary deaths. This time, unlike in the past, the blame must be squarely shared between those who fired the bullets, and some of those who led the incendiary crowds. Perhaps Kashmir has just entered a new and darker phase, brandishing a burning torch. This situation, in order not to be irreversible, needs the urgent and sane attention of Kashmiris themselves, and of all those who wish Kashmir and its people well.

We could do well by way of beginning by turning our attention to a surprising detail hidden within the reports of the recent events of arson. National Conference apparatchiks, who did not even dare appear in public till recently for fear of being attacked for their role in sustaining the occupation of Kashmir by India’s armed might, are now allegedly seen openly goading mobs of zealots to burn down a school in the name of the defence of religion. If this is true, the what we are witnessing is the realization by them of a wonderful opportunity to wear new costumes and speak new lines in the unfolding theatre of the moment.

Continue reading Kashmir, September 2010. The Reichstag Fire (dispersed) Redux ?

Humanise First

There is dismay in some sections that the FIR lodged by the driver of the ill-fated Gyaneshwari Express does not name Maoists as the suspect perpetrators. Within hours of the derailment and death of the passengers, newspapers were already lamenting that the centre did not have guts to take on Maoists. Suggestions have been made that this is an extraordinary situation and vacuous talk of human rights should not be heeded. There is a familiar taunt being hurled at the UPA government for its unmanly response to the biggest threat to the internal security of the country. The principal opposition party, which otherwise very zealously guards the rights of the state and resents any interference by the centre in matters which fall under the state list, even in one of the most extra-ordinary moments of recent history , I am referring to the state sponsored massacre of Muslims in Gujarat , now feels that the nuanced division of the rights and duties of the state and centre is not something which should keep the centre from treating the Maoist threat as a national issue and going for an all out armed intervention against the enemy of the nation.

Continue reading Humanise First

‘constitutional’ Realities: Priya Thangarajah


The piece is unfinished, consciously so. The thought is unfinished and needs to be fleshed out and thus posting this, so that this important idea can be evolved collectively. It raises a range of questions and contributes to existing debates on constitutional law from a social change/human rights perspective. (consciously the words ‘constitution’ and ‘india’ are not capitalised. ) It contributes significantly to an understanding, not just of north east india but the realities of chattisgarh, jharkhand, bihar, kashmir to name a few. It helps us understand all the wars fought within the country – ‘constitutionally’ about which much is being said in the media and elsewhere by state and non-state actors.

The constitution, some argue, is an aspirational document. Baxi states that it is created to protect the rights of the impoverished. Created to protect the weaker sections of society and that’s how the Dworkinian trumping of rights works. Rights of the weaker parties always trumps that of the stronger. But whatever the aim of the constitution maybe, its sacrosanct. Sacred. Amendments can be made with great difficulty but the constitution per se cannot be done away with for a new one. Continue reading ‘constitutional’ Realities: Priya Thangarajah