31 years on, AFSPA still a poll issue in Manipur

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Indian army soldiers
Imphal, Jan 17: Three decades after it was imposed in Manipur to deal with insurgents, the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) 1958 is still an issue to be used by all parties during electioneering for the January 28 assembly poll in the state.

While parties like the BJP and NCP were in favour of creating an atmosphere for removing the AFSPA, CPI(M) and Manipur People's Party (MPP), the oldest regional party of the state, were for outright removal of the act.

The ruling Congress, however, was yet to declare its views on the act which was imposed in Manipur in September 1980 when insurgent activities were at its peak in the state.

While releasing the party manifesto, NCP General Secretary PA Sangma had said his party would create an atmosphere for removal of the Act if his party came to power. NCP would raise the issue during campaigning, he said.

The BJP too has said in its manifesto that it would create an atmosphere and bring law and order situation to normalcy so that the AFSPA would be no longer necessary.

Leaders of the Congress were tight-lipped about its position on the act saying the state unit was in consultation with the High Command to bring out its manifesto.

A spokesperson of the Manipur People's Party (MPP), which had ruled the state twice, said the party would work for removal of the Act from the state if it came to power.

Asked why they did not remove the Act when it was in power, the spokesperson said the situation was different then.

CPI(M) politburo member Brinda Karat said her party was against continuation of AFSPA in Manipur but major ruling parties have been playing delaying tactics over the issue.

AFSPA would not bring any solution and instead it would prolong the problem, she said, adding it was now time for the government both at the Centre and state to act.

Various other political parties which were yet to publish manifestos said they would raise the AFSPA issue in their campaigns.

Since the act was imposed 30 years ago in Manipur, thousands of people including several innocent persons have died in encounters many of which were allegedly fake, official sources said.

Social activist Irom Sharmia has been on fast -- she was being force fed through her nose -- for over 10 years demanding withdrawal of the Act from the state after Assam Rifles personnel killed ten persons in an 'encounter' with unknown militants at Imphal airport area in 2000.

Civil society organisations have also been demanding withdrawal of the Act from the state.

PTI

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