AFSPA Withdrawn Partially, Following Public Outrage Over Manorama's Killing

Manipur Protest

Bangalore Manipuri Students' Association stage a silent protest to remove Armed Forces Special Powers Act from the entire state of Manipur on August 13, 2004.(Photo: Rishi Akoijam)

The Manipur Government withdrew the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act from seven assembly constituencies in Imphal areas, Chief Minister O.Ibobi Singh announced this week.

After the killing of Manorama Devi and pastor Jamkholet Khongsai, the Manipur government informed the Union Home Ministry about the excesses committed by security personnel, he said, adding the Union Ministry was not in favour of withdrawing the AFSPA from Manipur.

The main reasons for not favouring the withdrawal of the AFSPA were questions of national integrity and security, Ibobi Singh said, adding that the Centre could reimpose the act if it wanted to under section 3.

The decision to withdraw the act from all Imphal municipal areas under the jurisdiction of seven assembly constituencies was taken in view of the people's demand for lifting it from the entire state.

Stating that the government could not fulfill the people's full demand, the Chief Minister said the cabinet reviewed the overall situation arising out of the custodial killing of Th Manorama Devi by Assam Rifles personnel on July 11 followed by the demand for the complete lifting of the AFSPA by the people.

The Chief Minister said the Centre's argument for not completely lifting the act was that if it was withdrawn there was concern about the reactions from neighbouring Assam, Nagaland Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya.

Chief Minister Ibobi Singh said the act was still in force in these northeastern states.

He said the people of Manipur had been facing atrocities by the army, military, and security forces for the past 24 years — ever since the act was first imposed in the state, but at the same time, anti-socials had also been creating problems.

The Chief Minister quoted statements made by some organisations, although he did not mention their names, that the "time had come for a civil war, for a referendum, and Manipur should be delinked from the mainland."

"What is this? How can we tolerate such actions or statements," the Chief Minister asked, adding that these organisations had earlier closed down the counters at Indian Airlines as well as private airlines.

Ibobi Singh said the government understood the sentiments, emotions and anger of the people during the past month and appealed to them to understand the problem faced by the government.

Withdrawal of the AFSPA from municipal areas under assembly constituencies of Wangkhei, Yaiskul, Thangmeiband, Sagolband, Uripok, Singjamei and Keisampat was on a trial basis, he said.

If the situation improved the government would restore normalcy in the entire state, he said and asked for cooperation from the people.

Meanwhile, reports from districts said widespread sit-in protests for lifting the AFSPA from the entire state continued.

The working committee of the 32 organisations spearheading the agitation for removal of the AFSPA said it would continue protests until the act was lifted from the entire state.

Manipur People's Party President and Legislator O. Joy Singh who had earlier threatened to resign from the house if the act was not removed said the government decision was welcome.

His party would wait and watch further developments.

CPI, a ruling partner in the Congress-led Secular Progressive Front, which had earlier threatened to withdraw support if the act was not removed, said it would review its decision at a meeting on August 16. Manipur State Council CPI Secretary told Press Trust of India, CPI's demand had been for a complete withdrawal of the AFSPA. A Congress spokesman said they welcomed the cabinet's decision.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said the people's demand was for a complete withdrawal from the state and they too would review the situation on August 16.

Meanwhile, the eight Congress Members of Legislative Assembly, including two ministers who had earlier decided to resign if the AFSPA was not withdrawn by August 15, were not likely to do so since the government withdrew the act from the Imphal municipal area.

Speaking to Press Trust of India, some of the Members of Legislative Assembly said they would review the situation and announce their decision later.