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The Armed Forces Special Powers Act is a draconian, undemocratic and repressive law in India that gives the armed forces an open licence for violence against civilians in Manipur, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Meghalaya and Kashmir. It has provided impunity for thousands of illegal arrests, staged encounters, custodial deaths and disappearances. It has been the cover for rapes, sexual assaults and cold-blooded killings of women wherever it has been enforced. 

There is a long history of struggles against the AFSPA by ordinary people in all the areas where the Act has been imposed, with women spearheading many of these struggles. Prominent among them has been Irom Sharmila, a poet and human rights defender from Manipur who went on a historic fast for almost 16 years to protest AFSPA and demand its repeal!

Even as she ended her fast on 11 August 2016, she asks: How can the world’s largest democracy uphold a law that violates every tenet of democracy? And she calls for all of us, especially women of the world, to stand up with her, against AFSPA.

On 17th December 2016 in Mumbai, Angela Davis, black feminist activist and human rights defender, released an appeal to the President of India to repeal AFSPA.

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AFSPA 1958: Martial law in the world’s largest democracy

First promulgated by the British to quell the freedom struggle in India, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), has been kept alive and continuously operative in several north-eastern states since 1958 and in Kashmir since 1990. It allows armed forces in “disturbed” areas the license to shoot to kill anyone whom they consider to be disrupting “public order”, make arrests without warrants, enter and search, detain and question, with complete impunity…

AFSPA – THE BARE ACT

MORE ABOUT AFSPA
Supreme Court declares 'indefinite AFSPA' a mockery of democratic processes

On 8 July 2016, the Supreme Court of India passed judgment on a PIL filed by the Extra Judicial Execution Victim Families Association regarding 1528 encounter deaths in Manipur that has been under siege of AFSPA for about 60 years. It directed that all the cases “must be investigated” because “democracy would be in grave danger” if armed forces were permitted to kill citizens on mere allegation or suspicion that they are enemies of the state. It also said that “no absolute immunity” could be given to armed forces personnel if any death was found to be “unjustified”.

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FULL JUDGEMENT

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UN Special Rapporteur Christof Heyns decries AFSPA

At the 23rd Session of the UN Human Rights Council, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns stated that “the powers granted under AFSPA are in reality broader than that allowable under a state of emergency as the right to life may effectively be suspended under the Act and the safeguards applicable in a state of emergency are absent. Moreover, the widespread deployment of the military creates an environment in which the exception becomes the rule, and the use of lethal force is seen as the primary response to conflict…. 

EXCERPT    FULL REPORT

MORE UN STATEMENTS
Government Committee Recommends Repeal of AFSPA

In 2004, in the wake of intense agitations following the death of 32 year old Ms Thangjam Manorama in the custody of the Assam Rifles (http://www.outlookindia.com/) the Government of India  set up judicial committee to review the AFSPA. Yet when the Justice Jeevan Reddy report unequivocally recommended its repeal…

EXCERPT    FULL REPORT

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Former National Human Rights Commission Member indicts army, civil authorities

Welcoming the Supreme Court judgement that takes away the cloak of impunity offered by AFSPA to defence personnel, former NHRC member, Satyabrata Pal, writes a scathing piece that exposes the collusion between army, civil and magisterial authorities, as well as forensic and medical departments in the burying of evidence of false encounter deaths, and compromising the process of justice.  

FULL ARTICLE 

MORE ABOUT AFSPA
Eminent feminist historian Uma Chakravarti writes

‘Irom Sharmila says she doesn’t want to die… She wants to fly like a bird with a message of peace and humanity across the seven seas. But she says she cannot live with dignity under the AFSPA.

FULL ARTICLE

MORE ON SHARMILA'S STRUGGLE
Indian Women’s Groups Appeal for Repeal!

Arguing that ‘heavy militarisation in the north east has taken its toll on the very notion of “normal civilian life” and led to innumerable instances of violations committed against civilian populations.Encounter deaths, extra judicial killings, disappearances, arbitrary arrests, rape and torture have been a regular feature among the relentless series of atrocities meted out to the people by the army with impunity, especially in areas where they are protected by legislation like AFSPA.’ Indian women’s groups submitted an impassioned plea to the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee for the repeal of AFSPA…. 

FULL STATEMENT

MORE CAMPAIGN STATEMENTS
“Sanctioning violation of India’s human rights obligations” HR bodies

In a joint report, REDRESS (UK), Asian Human Rights Commission (Hong Kong) and Human Rights Alert (India) examine the AFSPA in the light of Constitutional mandates of India, international covenants it is signatory to as well as the protests against its continued application, notably the longstanding hunger fast by Ms Irom Chanu Sharmila in Manipur. 

FULL REPORT

MORE CIVIL SOCIETY REPORTS
Sharmila and the forgotten geneology of violence in Manipur

The focus throughout these 16 years has been on the iconised personality of Irom Sharmila, rather than on the reason and the demand of her protest. She has still not given up her demand, which is to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, but is merely changing her strategy. To misrecognise and misrepresent is also a form of violence, and it perpetrates the already existing militarism. Such misrecognition is what has led to the imposition of the AFSPA in the first place, the culture that looks at the people of the region with suspicion. The AFSPA has produced precisely such a culture of violence and impunity, the hallmark of which is the inability to trust.

FULL ARTICLE