SHILLONG, Nov 23: Can the Arm Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) bring in lasting peace in trouble torn Garo Hills region, this was the debating point during the panel discussion organized by the Shillong Press Club as part of the tiol Press Day celebration held today.
This piece of legislation has become an issue to be deliberated upon after the recent Meghalaya High Court order asking the Centre to consider enforcing AFSPA in Garo Hills.
The Assam-Meghalaya Peace Forum (AMPF) an organization of citizens living in the border areas of Assam and Meghalaya who had borne the brunt of atrocities of militants and crimil groups were for the imposition of AFSPA in Garo Hill region.
However, another group consisting of pressure groups and social organizations of the state were against it. They argued that the imposition of AFSPA will give uncontrolled power to the army.
Opening the debate Rev PBM Basaiawmoit of the North East Dialogue Forum (NEDF) said that the Act does not have a place in a democracy.
According to Rev Basaiawmoit, the Jeevan Reddy Commission, Santosh Hegde Commission and even the UN Special Rapportuer had recommended the repeal of the Act.
He said that the founding fathers of the constitution had opted for democracy and AFSPA which is a short piece of legislation has no place in a democratic set up.
“A person can be arrested on mere suspicion without any evidence, or charge sheet. No civil court can take cognisance of an act of the army,” Rev Basaiawmoit said.
Chief adviser of the AMPF- Animul Islam gave data of the number of people directly affected by militant activities.
According to Islam in the last five years 600 innocent citizens have been killed and are traceless. He also stated that about 10, 000 people have paid up to ransom demands.
An aggrieved Islam also said that no one took up the issue of killing and abductions of innocent people by militants and crimils gangs.
“AFSPA can control abductions, killings. It should be imposed but the innocent should not be harassed,” he said.
Chairman of North East Students’ Organisation (NESO) Samuel Jyrwa, said that AFSPA is a draconian act. Jyrwa also said that it is an irony that such an act exists in a democratic country.
Jyrwa also said that people who are affected by the law have time and again demanded that this law be repealed.
“Recently the amnesty intertiol which is a human right body and various committees that the government of India has set up has demanded for the repeal of this act,” Jyrwa said.
According to the NESO chairman the former United tion High Commissioner of Human rights in 2009 have said that India should repeal these outdated and colonial era laws that breach contemporary intertiol Human rights standards.
He said that such laws ranging from those which provide the security with excessive emergency bars including the armed forces special powers act.
“Unfortutely after all the demands and movement of the people of the Northeastern region the government of India till date has not repealed this act,” Jyrwa said.
Jyrwa also said that militancy in Garo Hills region should not be looked at as a commul issue because the problem in different parts of Garo Hills is not perpetuated by any particular section of the society but by different groups that have form gangs or groups to perpetuate these act.
“How can we let the whole society face the consequences just because of the action of few individual when the army of the armed forces is brought in under the protection of AFSPA?”
Moreover, the general secretary of the AMPF, Aminur Rahman said that people living in the border areas of Garo Hills with Assam are dependent on each other for livelihood. But according to Rahman the situation now is such that if one comes over to Meghalaya there is no guarantee he will return back.
“This terror situation has to be controlled. If AFSPA is not implemented how can it be controlled,” he said.
Rahman also lamented at the fact that there was no opposition to the kidppings and extortions by civil society groups.
“Respect the High Court order and implement AFSPA and terror will be ended,” he said.
Further, IG (Operations), GHP Raju, stressed the importance of the family in containing militancy.
Raju gave the example of the HNLC in the Khasi-Jaiñtia Hill region, which could be contained due to the influence of the family on the youths.