10 years on, Justice eludes Manorama Devi's family

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Protest at Jantar mantar, New delhi against repealing of AFSPA
Almost 10 years have passed since the brutal rape and murder of Manipur's Manorama Devi that shocked the nation and exposed the abuse of Armed Forces Special Powers Act in North-East India. Little has been done by the Government to bring the perpetrators behind the bar even after a decade of protest.

The protest intensified with Iron Lady of Manipur Irom Charu Sharmila fasting for almost 14 years demanding Government's attention to human rights violation in Manipur and repealing of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

Friday was the tenth anniversary of the killing of 34-year-old Thangjam Manorama Devi in Manipur allegedly by Assam Rifles personnel and people from different groups like human rights, political groups and democratic rights who held a protest march in Jantar Mantar, New Delhi.

"This case of Manorama Devi has become a very symbolic case because after this incident on July 11, 2004, 12 women held a naked protest in Imphal. From this moment this movement became very symbolic against the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Armed Forces Special powers act(AFSPA) is a draconian act and the Supreme Court says that it should be repealed but till now nothing has been done in this direction," says Rojio Usham from Manipur who has protesting at Jantar Mantar demanding repealing of AFSPA.

On being asked about his expectations from the new Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Centre, Rojio said," I have no expectations from the Modi Government because during the BJP Government in Manipur and Kashmir their has been only killings and it is same as UPA Government and so we have no expectations from them."

"This protest is only for today on the occasion of tenth death anniversary of Manorama Devi but the struggle for the Armed Forces Special Act is going on. For example Irom Sharmila is one important icon who is fasting for over 14 years,"added Rojio who is a student.

What is AFSPA?

The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is an Act of the Parliament of India granting special powers to Indian Army in certain tensed areas like Jammu and Kashmir and North-Eastern States of Manipur, Assam, etc for maintaining peace and stability. However, after 2004 Manorama Devi rape in Manipur by alleged armed forces and similar incident in Kashmir Valley like the Shopian rape and murder case, the act has received criticism from several sections. The act has been criticized by the political and human rights group as they believe that it has encouraged arbitrary killings and torture of innocent people.

AFSPA was passed on September 11, 1958. The Supreme Court of India highlighted the rampant misuse of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act or AFSPA, and appointed Judicial Commission noting that the Act has failed to tackle insurgency and that the armed forces were indulging in gross violation of human rights but the Government both the UPA and the NDA has not been able to arrive on a consensus of repealing the act.

The Manorama Devi incident

On July 11 2004, Thangjam Manorama Devi of Manipur was raped and murdered by the alleged armed forces which shook the nation and put the spotlight on the abuse of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.

group of 12 women paraded naked in front of the Kangla Fort in Imphal in protest

In protest against the brutal killing and murder, a group of 12 women paraded naked in front of the Kangla Fort in Imphal stunning the whole world and held up banners that said - 'Indian Army rape us'.

Manorama was picked up from her house on July 11 by Assam Rifles soldiers. Her dead body was later found with several bullet wounds including on her genitalia. Forensic tests detected semen and blood stains confirming rape. But no one has yet been convicted yet.

Colin Gonsalves, Counsel for Manorama's family, said, "Neither the PM nor the Home Minister, nor the Defence Minister has made the report public and told the women of Manipur what are the findings of the commission that was appointed by the Government itself."

Unfortunately even after the Manorama incident, 20 instances of rape and sexual assault were reported but nothing has been done by the Government. "The AFSPA is directly responsible. Security forces feel they are gods in Manipur, they have absolute immunity," Colin Gonsalves said.

Even after then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said AFSPA was draconian and there was a need to replace it with a humane law, the UPA Government was not able to arrive on any consensus.

Iron lady of Manipur: Irom Sharmila

Irom Sharmila is a civil rights activist who has been on an indefinite hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act for the past 14 years. She is also better know as Iron Lady of Manipur and is on strike to demand repeal of the Act after killing of ten civilians allegedly by the Assam Rifles in November 2000.

Even after a decade of her protest the Government has not been able to listen to her demand and has not arrived on any consensus. Even though the new Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi promises Acche Din, the people of North-East India are still in the hope of any change in law.

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