Friday, 28 November 2014

Article: Ten Cases under AFSPA that you should know about

by Ravi Nitesh

This article was published on Countercurrents 

As recently, a court martial awarded life term to 7 persons of Indian army after a court of inquiry in Machil encounter case. The infamous draconian act Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the impunity that it grants to security forces under which no prosecution can be held in any civil court without a prior sanction from Government of India has made the security forces a big hub for human rights violations. Besides Machil, there are many more cases, named and unnamed that need attention of government and judiciary because these cases are infamous for the atrocities performed by security forces.

Here are few infamous cases, listed about which we all should know, in view of our sensitization towards human rights and how there are difficulties in ascertaining the punishment to security personals who are surviving with impunity. It is also evident that these atrocities are still continued. Though here are the selected cases only, there are hundreds and thousands of cases like these where human rights violations reported in areas where AFSPA is imposed (North East region and J&K).

Operation Blue Bird (Oinam, Bishunpur District, Manipur) : Operation Blue Bird was launched in 11 th July 1987 at Oinam of Manipur, where more than 30 naga villages covered and human rights violations including torture and even extrajudicial killings were done in addition to sexual harassment, theft and loot by security personals. In a petition filed by NPMHR, it was reported that many houses were burnt and dismantled, many women were tortured and people got killed in fake encounters. This operation was done for many days, whole area was kept isolated and in jailed condition where even civil administrative authorities were not permitted to move in. Cases were filed in courts, even registrar of a high court was denied to move in to record the statements, but so far nothing happened.

Kunan Poshpora (Kupwara District, J&K) : On 23 rd February 1991, a search operation was conducted by Indian army in Kunan Poshpora village of Kupwara district. During this search operation, around 100 women including pregnant women were allegedly raped by army persons in front of villagers. No clear inquiry was made by government. Later in the year 2014, the police officer who first visited the village to record testimony told that he was threatened many times to not to make report public.  Government tried its best to make this case as ‘baseless' and on the other hand, Chief Justice of J&K high court in his findings told that he never saw such a case where even normal investigative procedures were ignored.  A case is still running in Supreme Court of India on this issue.

Bijbehra firing (Anantnag district, J&K): On 22 October 1993, approximate 35 civilians got killed when BSF fired upon crowd during a protest. It was alleged that firing was unprovoked and done while the protest was peaceful. Magistrate inquiry and NHRC findings marked that the firing was unprovoked. J&K High Court also accepted the reports and findings and ordered for compensation to victims and their families. It is not clear if the case against BSF personals was sent to grant sanction for prosecution, but till now no such prosecution was done. 

Malom (Imphal District, Manipur) : It was 2 nd November 2000, when  at Malom, a place near Imphal, Assam Rifles fired upon 10 persons at a bus stand and they got killed. In these persons, even a 60 year old lady and 18 year old bravery award winner also got killed. This case sparked the anger in Manipur. Protest was organized. Irom Sharmila started her fast with demand to repeal the act AFSPA. However, still nothing happened. 

Pathribal (Anantnag district, J&K)  : On 25 th March 2000, at Pathribal in J&K, 5 civilians were picked up by Rashtriya Rifles and allegedly made as ‘foreign militants' and  as the main accused persons who were responsible for Chhatisinghpura case. Local people protest against this and calimed that these were civilians and were not involved in any such activity. Initially, no case was lodged as defined with the impunity granted under AFSPA but later when protest erupts,  CBI was asked to investigate the case. CBI in its investigation submitted report and found guilty a Brigadier, a Lt Col, two majors and a subedar of 7 Rashtriya Rifles for a staged encounter where civilians were picked up from Anantnag district . These encounters were told as ‘cold blooded murders'.  Supreme Court of India, with findings of CBI told Indian army in the year 2011 for court martial, (as sanction for prosecution under civilian law could not be provided under AFSPA) , however after two years army closed the case with no actions on accused personals.

Manorama Killing (Imphal Distrcit, Manipur) : It was the night of 10 th July 2004, when Assam Rifles went to house of Manorama at Imphal, Manipur at night, tortured her at her house before her brother and mother, then picked her up. In the morning, dead body was found at Ngariyan Yairipok road with bullets injuries in her private parts. Massive protest was organized by people, even the infamous naked protest also happened but case under criminal charges could not be lodged. A local judicial inquiry was done but report was not made public.  A PIL in Supreme Court of India is still going on but no verdict has been awarded yet.    

Shopian Case (Shopian district, J&K)::   on 29 th May 2009 in Shopian (J&K), two women named Aasia (age approx 17) and Neelofar (age approx 22) went missing from their orchard on their way back to home. Their dead bodies found on next day morning. People alleged it as murder and rape by security forces who were camped nearby. Initially, no FIR was lodged and police told that postmortem report cleared injuries over private parts.  However people believed that police report about postmortem is fake, protests were continued by people and later J&K govt formed a judicial panel. Under judicial inquiry, Forensic lab report established the gang rape of both the women. Besides few suspension and transfers from police department, nothing has happened in this case.     

Mass Graves in J&K: In the year 2008-09, mass graves of approximate 3000 unmarked persons were found in Bandipora, Baramulla, Kupwara and other districts. It was believed that most of these graves may belong to people who has been killed and buried by security personals without any accountability under AFSPA. It was also believed that there may be persons who are reported as ‘disappeared', as thousands of cases of disappearances are recorded. State Human Rights Commission confirmed that thousands of bullet ridden bodies buried in unmarked graves. Some 500 bodies are identified as ‘locals' and not the ‘foreign militants' as it was told by security agencies. In spite of all cry and hue by human rights organizations and local people, no concrete action has been taken yet from the side of government.    

Machil Encounter (Kupwara district, J&K) : On 30 th April 2010, three civilians of Baramulla (J&K) were shot by Indian army at Machil sector in Kupwara district of J&K and were framed as ‘foreign militants'. However, later with the protest and inquiry, it was established that these persons were civilians and were called by army to provide them jobs of porters and later were killed in a staged encounter.  With the protest that erupted all over J&K as an anger of people and force used to suppress the protests, as many as 110 lives of civilians lost in the whole summer unrest of the year 2010.  Indian army in its inquiry found them guilty and in November 2014 sentenced life imprisonment to two officers and five soldiers in the court martial for being guilty. It was told that these army personals murdered these civilians, painted their face black, had put the guns and told them ‘foreign militants' to get rewards and remunerations under ‘anti-militancy operations.' 

1528 cases of extra judicial killings: In a write petition filed in Supreme Court of India (SCI), it was told that during May 1979 to May 2012 , approximate 1528 cases belongs to extra judicial killings. Supreme Court picked 6 random cases from the list and formed a high power commission under Justice (retd) Santosh Hegde and two others members to inquire about these 6 cases. Commission submitted its report to SCI stated that all 6 cases are found cases of fake encounters where no criminal records found for these persons who got killed. Case is still in SCI. 

Ravi Nitesh is founder of Mission Bhartiyam and member of National Core Committee of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign. He can be reached at

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Updates: 15th Year of Irom Sharmila's Fast against AFSPA

On 5th November, Irom Sharmila completed her 14 years and entered in 15th year of her fast against AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). 

Few updates are:

During 3rd to 5th November: Imphal, Manipur 

Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign participated in media interaction and fast (on 5th Nov) at Imphal, Manipur. This was organised by May 18 Memorial Foundation, Korea; Asia Forum Bangkok and Just Peace Foundation-Manipur. Program was organised to express solidarity of Gwangju Laurets who participated in this event. These Gwangju Laurets include Warida Hafidz (Indonesia), Sushil Pyakurel (Nepal), Lenin Raghuvanshi and Dr Binayak Sen (India). Apart from these laurets few persons received special invitation to participate on collective decision of organisers. These persons included Geo Sung Kim (Chairperson-Transparency International-Korea), Prof Kwangsu Lee (Prof of Indian History in Korea and Co director - Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights in Asia), Amit Sen Gupta (Faculty Indian Institute of Mass Communication, Human Rights Activist India), Mukunda Kattel (Director-Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development-Thailand), Harsh Dobhal (Editor-Combat Law and Executive Director-Human Rights Law Network-Delhi), Lynn Jeong (Director-May 18 Foundation), Ravi Nitesh (Human Rights Activist and freelance writer - Delhi) and Raghu (Amnesty International). Local activists, specially Babloo, Rojesh, Basanta and Onil and members of civil society hosted the event and worked hard to spread the voice and participation of people.  

It was observed in Imphal that there is a huge support of Irom Sharmila in the state. In spite of the 'general observation' of solidarity with Irom and demand of repeal AFSPA as 'anti-state', it was seen that more than 15 schools of Imphal participated officially in the solidarity fast. School students participated in their uniform and they all were proud to be on fast. During my talk , I found that they all had permission from their parents and even in many cases, parents were also on fast while staying at home. Fast was organised at more than 10 places in Imphal itself and people participated in large numbers. In evening we also lit candles at Relay fast venue. Local media covered the solidarity event with huge response and other decisions were also taken to pressurise the government.  

We also visited 'Malom', the place where 10 persons got killed by firing of Assam Rifles in year 2000. We met with family of victims. We also met with family of Manorama Devi, who was raped and killed by Assam Rifles in year 2004. We also met with widows and families of persons of extra judicial killing. 


On 6th Nov at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi

A solidarity fast was organised at New Delhi at Jantar Mantar by Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign and other individuals and organisations. Many people participated in the fast including SSSC members and volunteers. This fast was coordinated by Devika Mittal (SSSC), Hidam Peter, Rajesh Mehta, Rajeev, Salaam Singh and others. A memorandum also submitted to President and Prime Minister. 

SSSC also sent a memorandum to Member of Parliaments from North East and J&K and demanded to raise the issue in parliament as well as within their party. 

SSSC issued statement to appeal with the government and demanded to repeal AFSPA. 

Few newslinks of above mentioned activities:

One-Day Solidarity fast to mark 14 years of Irom Sharmila's struggle at Jantar Mantar

New Delhi: On 5th November, Irom Sharmila entered her 15th year of hunger-strike against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act(AFSPA) that has led to gross human rights' violations in North-East and Jammu & Kashmir. To mark the beginning of the 15th year of her struggle for democracy and justice, Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign alongwith other like-minded organisations like Azaadi Bachao Aandolan, B P Mehta foundation and other human rights' groups and individuals observed a one-day solidarity fast at Jantar Mantar.

The solidarity hunger-strike and gathering included students, activists and senior Gandhians belonging from both North-east and other parts of India. During the day-long gathering, students and activists from different organisations shared their views: 

Rajesh Mehta, one of the organisers, said “It is shocking that Irom Sharmila has gone unheard in the world’s largest democracy. Her belief and continued struggle shows that she is a true democrat. The Government should talk to her if they believe in the spirit of democracy.”

Hidam Peter, a DU student, said “It is shameful that such a long hunger-strike has been going on in the land of Gandhi. While the state regards Mahatma Gandhi as the father of the nation, no attention has been paid to her true supporter.”

Social Activist, Pawan Kumar Jain said “Irom Sharmila has become the symbol of anti-AFSPA. Her struggle has been recognized internationally but our own Government and some people remain apathetic. Instead of opening talks with her, she has been charged for “committing suicide”. The irony is that she is standing just for the opposite. She is standing for the right to life, the most basic right yet so hard to achieve in the world’s largest democracy.

Devika Mittal, core member of Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, argued that “Irom Sharmila is a prisoner of conscience while the state and everyone who supports AFSPA seems to have lost any conscience. AFSPA is not just a security law. We need to understand the politics behind it.  Today, AFSPA has been caught in the blame game and in this, the common people are suffering.”

A memorandum was also submitted to the Prime Minister and the President of India demanding the repeal of AFSPA.


4TH November 2014, New Delhi

Statement on 15TH Year of Heroic Struggle of Irom Sharmila: Shame on Government,Salute to People

As you know, Irom Sharmila or the Iron lady of Manipur, has entered the 15thyear of her hunger-strike against AFSPA. For 14 years, she has been pleading for humanity. Her struggle of 14 years shows her relentless faith in the democratic institutions. She is hopeful that someday the Government will listen to her. She is a true democrat yet her democratic way of protest is being ignored in the ‘World’s largest democracy’.  It is a shame for democracy and government that it is ignoring such a heroic and non violent struggle. We, at SSSC, condemn the action of government in this regard and on the other hand, when we see the tireless efforts of people of AFSPA imposed areas who are continuously struggling against this inhumane law and trying to live their life, we salute their efforts for justice and democracy. We see the true democracy in these people’s struggle rather than in the government that is largely acted as deaf and ignorant over such an important issue that is associated with its own citizen’s lives.

We believe that making a democracy more accountable and transparent, more responsible and generous is a collective responsibility of all of us. We also appeal with top officials of army, security agencies and decision makers to take a kind note on ill-effects of this act. They must take note that how they should be more concerned about it and must see that this act is not appropriate and humane. Army and security agencies are formed with the very objective to provide a safe and secure environment to people and at that level this act has been utilized in such a way that it only became a tool to play withpeople’s lives knowingly or unknowingly. System must be defined in such a way that nobody can take benefit of this and a stringent vigil must be there to make our implementers more accountable. AFSPA lacks all such efforts.People who are living in AFSPA imposed areas have faced various problems and their complaints have not been registered, their cases have not been lodged and investigated at many levels. All these things not only lead to make a gap between security agencies and people.
AFSPA which has been existing for 60 years now has devastated the affected regions. There has been gross violation of human rights in these areas. With arbitrary powers and legal impunity granted to armed forces, AFSPA has led to extra-judicial killings, fake encounters, rapes and torture of civilians. AFSPA challenges the basic fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution of India. It has become a political issue in which the only sufferers are the common people.
In this regard, we appeal the present BJP led government to fulfill its promises of restoring humanity in Manipur. During the elections, the Manipur unit of BJP had declared that if voted to power, the undemocratic and arbitrary law of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will be repealed. Even news reports are available in this regard. It has given us a new hope. So now that you have been bestowed with the trust of the people to restore humanity, we appeal to keep your word and take the humane decision to repeal AFSPA.

Irom Sharmila has been charged with the attempt to commit suicide but that is wrong. It was not suicide, it is a great sacrifice, a struggle for humanity. In her court trials and in interviews, she has said that she loves her life and is only demanding that the fundamental rights that are granted in the constitution should be extended to people in North-East India. Sir, Irom Sharmila was not a social activist. She was not even a direct victim of the law. Yet, she is on a hunger-strike for 14 years. And she is not alone. We are a part of the Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign, a nation-wide protest against the neglect and suppression of Irom Sharmila. For over three years now, the campaign has been organizing public demonstrations, awareness programmes in colleges, signature campaigns in about 20 states and nation-wide rallies to spread the word about her and her struggle. From all these, we have gathered that peopleare sympathetic towards her, her cause. People believe in her. The Supreme Court, NHRC, several national and international human rights’ organizations have also regarded AFSPA to be a draconian law. Even the government’s own committees like Jeevan Reddy committee recommended already for its repeal, Justice Verma committee that was formed after Delhi Rape case (Nirbhaya case)  had also recognized the sexual violence that happens under the garb of AFSPA and had recommended that these sexual violence cases should be treated in the same way as sexual violence cases in non-AFSPA states.

AFSPA does not have the mandate of the people. In regard to democracy and humanity, we demand that:
1.       Immediate steps must be taken to Repeal AFSPA from Manipur on the basis of ‘promise of BJP that is presently in government but the more than that on the basis of ‘Justice’ and ‘humanity’.
2.       Immediate steps to Repeal AFSPA from other regions of North east and J&K.
Also, as an immediate measure,
1.       Charges of 'commit to suicide' must be taken back from Irom Sharmila Chanu and she must be set free. Her fast is for the life, and not against life in anyway, also it is for the society and not for any personal reason. With the interim relief,Government must order to remove charges of section 309 (attempt to suicide case) from New Delhi and Manipur both places and must set her free to meet people like any normal citizen can. 
2.       The Govt of India, must set up a parliamentary panel immediately to start talk with Irom Sharmila and to study human rights violations in AFSPA imposed areas
3.       The recommendation of the Justice Verma committee regarding the sexual violence cases under AFSPA should be implemented.

We all believe that democracy must listen the voice of people and must not ignore such demands that are largely towards the objective of better governance and more humane society. We also hope that more and morepeople will also come in support of the demand and we will raise our demand more strongly and loudly with our peaceful campaigning and advocacy. 

Thanking You

Yours Sincerely,

Ravi Nitesh/Devika Mittal/ Pankaj Pathak
Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign