11 Years of Irom Sharmila’s Fast : AFSPA Must Go!  
On November 2, 11 years back, a young woman in Manipur, disturbed by the terrible Malom massacre in which the Assam Rifles killed 14 civilians, went on a hunger-fast in mourning and protest. Some days later, on November 5, she decided to begin an indefinite fast – to be broken only when the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 - instrument of the humiliation and repression imposed on Manipur and the North East - was scrapped.
This November, the debate over AFSPA has sharpened when the J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah tried to stem the outrage over the custodial death of an activist of his own party, and the acknowledgement of thousands of mass graves in the state, by declaring that AFSPA should be lifted from some of the civilian areas of the state. This intention – a far from adequate measure in light of the extent of human rights violations – has been met with vitriolic protests on part of Army leaders and their propagandists. All those seeking repeal of AFSPA are being branded as foreign-funded anti-nationals, and the shameful history of torture, fake encounters, massacres and custodial killings by security forces are sought to be silenced in the name of ‘patriotism,’ which in turn is sought to be equated with a blind defence of the armed forces. The Central Government too is taking the line that any partial lifting of AFSPA, let alone repeal of AFSPA, can be possible only with the consent of the Army. And the BJP has termed the campaign against AFSPA as a motivated attack on the army’s morale.          
The writ of AFSPA runs in most of the North East states, as well as in Kashmir – in all regions where there is heavy deployment of armed forces in the name of combating insurgency. The very presence, for decades on end, of such huge contingents of armed forces in civilian areas, of course, inevitably brings severe repression and rights violations in its wake. What the AFSPA does is to provide a cloak of impunity to the armed forces for acts of violence meted out by them to civilians. It gives the armed forces a licence to kill civilians on mere ‘suspicion’, and it protects the armed forces from prosecution in the case of any such acts of violence on civilians. Prosecution is possible only with sanction from the Central Government: and in the hundreds of cases of fake encounters, rapes and custodial killings reported from the North East and Kashmir, the Government has withheld sanction in most cases. The Army claims it will be ‘handicapped’ without AFSPA. Can we allow the Army in a democratic country to claim that it is ‘handicapped’ without the right to conduct fake encounters and custodial killings of thousands and bury the victims in mass graves, no questions asked? 
In 2004, following the rape and murder of a young woman, Thangjam Manorama, by jawans of the Assam Rifles, a huge protest movement erupted on the streets of Manipur. The Meira Paibi women of Manipur protested without clothes outside the army headquarters in Imphal, with banners saying, ‘Indian Army Rape Us.’ In an effort to contain those protests, the UPA Government set up the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee to look into the AFSPA. The Jeevan Reddy Committee did recommend that the AFSPA be scrapped. But the UPA Government has taken no action on that recommendation. 
As we salute the courageous struggle of Irom Sharmila and express solidarity with her ongoing fast, we must demand the immediate scrapping of AFSPA. The scrapping of AFSPA can only be a first step in restoring peace and justice to the North East and Kashmir. The truth about custodial disappearances, rapes and ‘encounter’ killings must be established and the guilty punished. And above all, the army deployment in civilian areas must be withdrawn so that the people of these regions can breathe free and without fear.
PSA Amendment: Far From Enough
Recently, the J&K Government amended the Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act. But the amendment brings no joy to the people of Kashmir.
The PSA, in force since 1978 is what is used to jail Kashmiri youth when they raise slogans on the streets. The very name is a mockery since one wonders how this act provides safety to the people of Kashmir! In its 2011 report, the Amnesty International termed this a ‘lawless law,’ used “to secure the long-term detention of individuals against whom there is insufficient evidence for a trial”. The amended Act, however, does nothing to reduce the unconstitutional lawlessness of the PSA: it merely reduces the detention period somewhat.
PSA and AFSPA are being used to crush the voices of people from J&K seeking freedom and dignity. These symbols of the humiliation of a repressed people must go!
- M F Janawari, student, JNU

Bhupen Hazarika

Your voice will flow on,
Throbbing with the pulse of people’s pain and people’s resistance...       
Your political foray with the right-wing struck a discordant note with all who loved you.
But it’s your music that will outlive that slip, and find a permanent place in people’s struggles and people’s hearts.
Liberation salutes the immortal bard of Brahmaputra – Bhupen Hazarika!   

Ganga why do you flow?
Your spread is immense,
Hearing the anguished cries of innumerable people on both banks
Yet, forever mute, O Ganga, Ganga why do you flow?

The call of history, roars:
O stream of Ganga
Turn powerless masses into powerful fighters,
Marching forward

Why don’t you?


J Sri Raman
Liberation condoles the untimely passing away of J Sri Raman, journalist and leading campaigner against nuclear weapons and communal violence.
J Sri Raman was a lifelong peace activist in the sub-continent, and bold voice against all war-mongering and jingoism. He led many popular grassroots campaigns against communalism. He helped to found several organisations against nuclear weapons, including the Chennai-based Journalists Against Nuclear Weapons (JANW) in the wake of the May 1998 Pokhran-II bomb and resulting chauvinist frenzy in the media; the Movement Against Nuclear Weapons (MANW); and Coalition for Nuclear Disarmament and Peace (CNDP). He is the author of Flashpoint: How the U.S., India, and Pakistan Brought us to the Brink of Nuclear War, published in 2003.      
Sri Raman, while staunchly demanding an end to nuclear weapons, had not argued for a rejection of nuclear energy. Now that the debate on nuclear energy in India and the world has emerged with a new urgency post-Fukushima, we will miss Sri Raman’s insight in approaching the question anew.   

Liberation expresses heartfelt condolences to Sri Raman’s family and friends.