| Irom Sharmila |
Imphal, Dec. 4: The Okram Ibobi Singh-government extended the Disturbed Areas Act for another year while the Supreme Court fixed December 6 as the date for the next hearing on a petition filed against the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act by former Manipur medical director Th. Suresh.
The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is enforced under the Disturbed Areas Act. Barring seven Assembly constituencies in Imphal East and Imphal West, the army act is enforced in the entire state of Manipur.
An official source today said the Ibobi Singh cabinet took the decision last night after reviewing the present law and order situation.
The decision taken by the cabinet made it clear that the government was not prepared to withdraw the act.
Last month, Irom Sharmila completed 12 years of her hunger strike demanding repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.
The petition filed in September prayed for directives to the Centre and the Manipur government for withdrawal of the act from the state.
The government drew flak for extending the Disturbed Areas Act from rights activists, who said the decision was against the wishes of the people.
“It is a prerogative of the government to extend the act. However, it would be appropriate for the government to wait till the hearing on Thursday,” Suresh, who is camping in New Delhi for the next hearing, told this correspondent over the phone.
“The decision taken by the Ibobi Singh cabinet to extend the act for another period of one year made it very clear that the state government does not intend to resolve the ongoing armed conflict in Manipur,” said Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of Human Rights Alert Manipur.
“It has been 55 years since the act was enforced in Manipur. With the help of this act, the government has failed to control militancy and bring any solution. How long can the government keep on extending the act without doing anything to find a solution to the problem of militancy?” Loitongbam asked.
He said the decision taken at a time when the Supreme Court was hearing a petition against the act made the intention of the Ibobi Singh government more than clear.
Irom Singhjit, the elder brother of Sharmila and trustee member of Just Peace Foundation, was not available for comment but he is fully supporting his sister’s demand.
The people of Manipur have been campaigning for repeal of the act as they feel that the armed forces have been committing acts of human rights violation with impunity under its blanket cover.