Manmohan Singh described the law as "inhuman". FM P Chidambaram has said similar things. AFSPA endures. Only Rahul Gandhi can end this waffle.

By Abheek Barman, ET Bureau | 17 Jan, 2014,
As you read this, members of the All India Congress Committee (AICC), the largest gathering of MPs and other leaders of the party, would be settling down to chart the course for Lok Sabha elections due in less than three months.
Or, perhaps not. The buzz around this meeting, to be held in Delhi’s Talkatora Stadium, is whether these MPs will push to elevate Rahul Gandhi as the party’s prime minister-in-waiting, or to the presidency of the party, or to some other exalted post.
Do they really have to do this? Rahul, son of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, enjoys almost unfettered authority within the party. Though he is designated vice-president, everyone within the party knows that as his mother has gradually withdrawn from the public gaze, Rahul has stepped up to take more decisions.

The Name is Gandhi…This includes his spectacular rejection of an Ordinance to shield convicted lawmakers from disqualification in September last year. Such is his authority within the party now that his words, uttered at a press conference in Delhi, immediately became the Congress line. The Congress hurriedly withdrew the Ordinance that had earlier been approved by the Cabinet and other top policymaking bodies in party and government.

So, Rahul doesn’t need another designation, or a formal bump-up to assert himself in the Congress. This is in stark contrast to Narendra Modi‘s power grab within the BJP. Modi knew that there were at least half-a-dozen prime ministers-in-waiting within the BJP. This includes some who had not won anything other than university union polls. That is why, helped by the party cadre, he jostled and pushed his way to the front of the queue. Being the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate is vitally important to Modi.
Most Potent AdhesiveSuch a situation is unthinkable in the Congress, where an arched eyebrow from the Gandhis is enough to settle any dispute, however major. You can call this dynastic politics, but the Gandhis are the glue that has held the party together for decades. The Congress knows it needs the Gandhis more than the Gandhis need the Congress.

Because Rahul doesn’t need a promotion, he should speak his mind on a few things, on which the Congress’ stance is murky. The most important of these things is a nasty law in force in several parts of India. It’s called the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), enacted in 1958.
AFSPA allows police and armed forces to arrest and search without warrant, and shoot to kill if it wants to in any part of India declared “disturbed”. That is bad enough, but the most chilling part of the law is its section 6, which reads, “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the central government against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.”
Got it? That means that armed forces operating under AFSPA can do jolly well what they want with the civilian population – and get away scot-free. And that is what they’ve been doing for the last 56 years.Originally intended to curb militancy in Nagaland and the Manipur hills, AFSPA operates across all of Manipur since 1980 and in Jammu and Kashmir since the early 1990s.

In 2012, a group of 24 human rights groups in Manipur got together to document cases of arbitrary killings .by the armed forces between 1979 and 2012. They carefully noted dates, places and victims

The total body count came to a horrifying 1,528, including 98 children. A panel appointed by the Supreme Court examined six of these cases and told the court that each amounted to an extra-judicial killing.

The Irom Lady


One of the worst incidents was the mass slaughter of 10 civilians in a village called Malom, not far from Imphal, during daytime by the Assam Rifles: among the victims, an 18-year-old boy and a 62-year-old woman.

Horrified by this, a local resident called Irom Sharmila Chanu decided to stop eating till AFSPA was revoked. The police picked her up, charged her with the crime of attempted suicide and started force-feeding her through a tube. She was 28 years old then. This is the 14th yof the fast. AFSPA continues to be in force.

Is there any evidence that AFSPA is helping to curb violence in Manipur? Quite the contrary. According to the South Asia Terrorism Portal, between 2001 and 2012, hundreds of people were killed each year in the state, 2008 being the worst year, with 485 dead. In 2012, the government removed AFSPA from the four districts and seven assembly seats of Imphal, the capital. In 2013, the number of those killed dropped to three.

The BJP and ..its parent RSS strongly support AFSPA. The Congress doesn’t know what to think.

Soon after becoming prime minister, Manmohan Singh described the law as “inhuman”. Finance minister Palaniappan Chidambaram has said similar things. AFSPA endures. Only Rahul Gandhi can end this waffle.

He should reach out to Sharmila and, like the Ordinance, tell India just what he thinks of AFSPA.

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