New Delhi, Oct. 12: The Centre put the onus of withdrawing the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, on the Manipur government even as human rights groups urged the United Nations to intervene.
While protest rallies were organised by activists in the national capital, attention was riveted on Irom Sharmila, who has been fasting for the past six years for the repeal of the “draconian law”.
The Centre has put the ball in chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh’s court while sticking to its stand.
“The law may not be actually reviewed, but if the Manipur government feels it can handle the situation and asks for its withdrawal, then that may be done,” said a Union home ministry source.
It has been predicted that the act may be withdrawn from Manipur before the Assembly polls next year. That would give the Ibobi Singh government a chance to claim victory and satisfy those demanding the act’s repeal.
Last year, Ibobi Singh had recommended withdrawal of the act from six areas.
The Centre did not oppose this, home ministry sources said. With criticism of the legislation spiralling, the Centre may not oppose the withdrawal if and when the chief minister wishes for it.
The law has been in force in the state since 1980 but the number of insurgent outfits has multiplied, defeating its purpose to control militancy and violence, human rights activists argue.
Delhi is unconvinced and is in no hurry to repeal or review the act.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is imposed in Manipur, Nagaland, parts of Assam, Tripura and Arunachal Pradesh.
At the same time, a human rights group dashed off a letter yesterday to Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights based in Switzerland, appealing to the United Nations to intervene in Sharmila’s case.
“We urgently request you to use your good offices with the Government of India” to urge it to ensure that Sharmila withdraws her hungerstrike and “immediately follow up on the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act,” the letter from South Asia Human Rights Documentation Centre stated. This NGO is part of the Asia Pacific Human Rights Network.
In fact, the Centre has not made public the Justice Jeevan Reddy committee report, which recommends repeal of the act though suggesting that its provisions be incorporated into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967.
In Imphal, The Apunba Lup, a conglomeration of NGOs which is campaigning against the army act, is planning to storm the Raj Bhavan and government offices across Manipur tomorrow as part of its renewed agitation against the legislation.