After years of protest against one of India's most Draconian laws, is there finally some light at the end of the tunnel?
Armed Forces Act to be amended
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to make announcement in Manipur today
New Delhi: In an attempt to address the long-standing demand of the people of Manipur and other north-eastern States for the withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Union Government has finally decided to amend the controversial law and remove its most draconian provisions.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will make an announcement to that effect during his visit to Manipur on Saturday, official sources told The Hindu .
"The Prime Minister will also promise that he is prepared to scrap the entire law if subsequent conditions allow," a senior official said.
According to the sources, the Government is looking to introduce two major changes in AFSPA "within a matter of weeks."
The first amendment will remove from the law the provision in Section 4 which gives soldiers above and including the rank of non-commissioned officer the authority to fire upon and even kill individuals so long as they are "of the opinion that it is necessary to do so for the maintenance of public order."
The second change will be to incorporate the safeguards or list of "do's and don'ts" — stipulated by the Supreme Court in its 1997 judgment on the constitutionality of AFSPA.
In its report on the workings of the Act submitted to the Government last year, the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee had recommended that AFSPA be scrapped and its main provisions incorporated into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (ULPA).
Asked what relation the Prime Minister's proposed course of action bore to the recommendations of the committee, the sources said the Government was not prepared to implement its recommendations. "ULPA is applicable across the country and is not meant to cover situations where the Army is deployed. It cannot provide the armed forces the indemnity they need," they said. However, now that the shoot-to-kill provision was going to be taken out, the "worst aspect" of AFPSA would have been addressed, they added.
On two prior occasions, the Prime Minister had told Manipuri delegations that he was prepared to replace AFPSA with a "more humane" law. The demand for the repeal of AFSPA snowballed into a major issue in 2004 following the custodial killing and alleged sexual molestation of Th. Manorama, a Manipuri woman, by soldiers from the Assam Rifles.
Does anybody care about Manipur?