Imphal, Jan 18: It's Manipur's misery that the northeastern state has been living under the shadow of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) for decades, in spite of several protests, launched by civil society groups, demanding the repeal of the draconian law.
Over the years, the AFSPA has become almost synonymous with the northeastern state. Or, even Jammu and Kashmir for that matter.
AFSPA in a nutshell
The Act was passed by Parliament in 1958 which grants special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in areas deemed "disturbed" by the Act.
Death due to AFSPA
Because of AFSPA, more than 1,500 alleged extra-judicial killings were reported in the state in the last three decades.
Controversial points of AFSPA
--After giving due warning, officers can fire upon those acting unlawfully, even if it causes death, for the maintenance of public order.
--Destroy any arms dump, or fortified shelters or training camps which are used to attack from.
--To arrest without warrant anyone who has committed cognizable offence or is suspected to have done so.
--To enter and search any premises to make such arrests.
--To stop and search any vehicle reasonably suspected.
--Army officers have legal immunity over their offences. There can be no prosecution, suit or legal action taken against them.
--The government's decision on any area deemed disturbed cannot be brought under judicial review.
Demand to repeal the draconian law
Now, the question is will the next government in the state repeal the controversial law.
The story of Manipuri activist and poet Irom Chanu Sharmila has become a legend across the globe.
The peace activist-turned-politician was on a fast-unto-death since November 4, 2000, demanding the repeal of the AFSPA which gives carte blanche to the security forces while combating the insurgents. She broke her fast last year and announced her entry into politics.
Sharmila is all set to contest the elections against incumbent Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh. Her party, the People's Resurgence and Justice Alliance, is fighting the elections to help repeal AFSPA from the state.
Polling for the 60 seats Manipur Assembly will be hosted in two phases on March 4 and March 8. Results will be declared on March 11. In the last assembly polls, the Congress won 42 seats and Okram Ibobi Singh was re-elected as the chief minister of the state.