All Tribal Students’ Union, Manipur (ATSUM) said today removal of Armed Forces Special Powers’ Act (AFSPA) from the state should not be “exclusive but inclusive”. The apex tribal student body of Manipur also said that the withdrawal of the “much abhorred” AFSPA, 1958 from 15 police stations of valley districts of Manipur by the government of India” at the prodding of the state government and thereby leaving the hill people in the lurch clearly demonstrates the parochial attitude of the present government towards the hill people of Manipur”.
According to ATSUM, there is nothing historic or landmark about the announcement when 90 percent of the total geographical area of Manipur and more than 40 percent of the population are excluded from the purview and forced to languish under this monstrous act called AFSPA, 1958, “a colonial hangover whose intent was to stifle the clamor for the quit India movement”. ATSUM further said that the “abysmal failure” of the government of Manipur to take into consideration the ground reality of the law and order situation in respect to the hills and valley and thereby “presenting a bias input” to the Union Home Ministry have left many of the hill people floundering in disbelief. “In fact, after the 1997 ceasefire with NSCN and subsequently with Kuki-Chin groups under the aegis of KNO/UPF, relative peace had returned in the Manipur hills. When all is well in the hills yet this obvious fact was conspicuously ignored by the government,” the tribal student body added.
ATSUM then opined that it would have been prudent if the state government applied the same yardstick and parameters for the whole state. “But their prejudicial mindsets must have prevented them from doing so, while our tribal ministers and MLAs watched the whole episode in stoic silence,” the apex tribal student body of Manipur also said. “Why was AFSPA discriminatorily removed from the state wherein the hill districts are placed under dark?” it asked. The tribal student body then demanded that the government of Manipur must answer satisfactorily to the hill people of Manipur.
Collectively, according to ATSUM, the tribulations of AFSPA had been endured with many of “our very own brethren treacherously murdered, maimed for life, our women folks defiled, forced disappearances and innocent people tormented under the garb of counter insurgency operations”. It further said that the “Heirangoithong massacre of 1984, the operation Blue Bird of 1987 or the Oinam massacre, the Malom massacre of 2000 and the sinister murder of Manorama” are still fresh and collectively etched in the psyche of the people of Manipur. ATSUM pointed out that it has been collectively fought in different and distinct capacity for the removal of AFSPA “but this government chose to assuage the pains of few, whereas rubbing more salts to the already festering wounds of the hill people”.
ATSUM then said that it would have been heartening if the hill districts were also given the benefit of the removal of disturbed area tag for just a period of six months as a test case and repudiated in the event of its failure like their valley counterparts. “As the law and order situation in the state had improved with the insurgency activities in both hill and valley areas being negligible now, removal of AFSPA from the state should not be exclusive but inclusive,” the tribal student body added.