Public outcry against Armed Forces Act

GUWAHATI, April 26 – In what could be termed the biggest rallying cry against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in North East India, members of student bodies from seven NE States today carried out a protest action against the Act that has been controversial since the time of imposition. The protestors had black clothes covering their mouths to register their dissent near Dighali Pukhuri.

For two hours, from four in the afternoon, the student leaders from all the NE states, under the banner of North East Students’ Organisation (NESO), took part in the sit-in protest demanding repeal of the Act, and later spoke out against the law which they condemned in unison. All those who spoke described the AFSPA as an affront to the people of the region, as the Act was in place in no other part of the country except the North East and Jammu and Kashmir. They expressed solidarity with the intrepid campaign being carried out by Irom Sharmila of Manipur against the AFSPA.

Addressing the gathering, Dr Samujjal Kumar Bhattacharyya, adviser to All Assam Students’ Union lambasted the Union Government for favouring a law that was unjust and unfair to the people of the North East.

He found it utterly strange that the Union Government has failed to take note of a democratic protest carried out by Sharmila against the Act, which is now more than a decade old.

Expressing solidarity with her cause, he said that the AFSPA was a great injustice to the people of the North East, and was contrary to the aspirations of the region’s inhabitants.

President of All Assam Students’ Union, Sankar Prasad Roy condemned the AFSPA as it gave enough scope for innocent people to be attacked and killed by armed personnel. He described the Act as unacceptable, and demanded that the law be withdrawn. Thanking the congregation he said that the people of the North East must stand united against the Act.

The adviser to NESO, Artex Shimre strongly criticized the AFSPA and those who supported its imposition in the North East. Since 1958, when it was introduced for a ‘short time’ the Act has caused great concern in the region, with people believing it as highly discriminatory, he noted.

“Those in power want our resources, but not our people,” Shimre remarked, adding that even though peace talks were taking place, the Act continues to create grave anxiety.

The opposition to the AFSPA was also spelled out clearly by Updendra Dev Barma of Twipra Students’ Federation, who found it offensive that a law was being imposed on the people of North East India and Jammu and Kashmir alone. He censured the response of the Union Government in regard to the Act even after the J Reddy report had made significant remarks against the controversial Act.

Later in the evening, a candle light protest was organised at the venue where the protest took place. Similar protest actions were held in all the capital cities of the North Eastern states, an AASU member stated.