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Assam wants act scrapped

Guwahati, Feb. 10: The committee constituted by Delhi to review the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act today wound up its trip to Assam by revealing that an 'overwhelming' majority in Assam was against the idea of persisting with the legislation.

'The overwhelming opinion (in Assam) has been against the act,' Justice B.P. Jeevan Reddy, who heads the committee, said after a two-day public hearing in the state capital.

The five-member committee has already elicited opinion in Manipur and Tripura. The members left for Shillong today. The other members of the committee are P.P. Shrivastav, Sanjoy Hazarika, S.K. Nakade and N.R. Raghavan.

Justice Reddy said opinions were diverse with some wanting the army to go and others demanding the act's repeal. 'We have three opinions on the act. First, the act should be repealed and the army should return to the barracks; second, the army should stay but the act be replaced with a more humane legislation, and third, the army should stay and the act modified.'

As many as nine organisations and 16 individuals deposed before the committee in Assam. The organisations comprised bar associations and women's and students' organisations.

Justice Reddy said there was misunderstanding on the act in Tripura, where people were speaking on cases involving the Tripura State Rifles. 'The commission is concerned only with the act and not excesses committed by police.'

He said women's organisations spoke of trauma and difficulties they faced because of the act.

'We have started work in right earnest without even waiting for the issue of notifications by the government,' Justice Reddy said. The ministry of home affairs has also given one representation, which will be followed by one more.

Justice Reddy said the committee had taken cognisance of the campaign by Irom Sharmila, who has been on a hungerstrike for over four years now against the imposition of the act.

The panel said it would complete its job within the timeframe of six months.

The panel was set up in the wake of the furore over the death of Thangjam Manorama in Assam Rifles' custody.

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