Imphal, Feb. 3: Opposition parties in Manipur have reacted sharply to the UPA government’s anti-rape ordinance for not including all of Justice J.S. Verma committee’s recommendations.
The ordinance, which has provisions for capital punishment for rape and gang rape leading to death or vegetative state of the victim, was sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent on Friday.
The committee had recommended the removal of sanction required for prosecuting army personnel accused of crimes against women under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958, and they be tried under ordinary criminal law.
“The UPA government’s rejection of the recommendations on rape by army personnel shows the Centre is not fully prepared to deal with sexual offences,” CPI state committee secretary M. Nara Singh said.
The party is currently on a month-long campaign, which started on Friday, demanding repeal of the act. A series of street corner meetings will be organised as part of the campaign.
Trinamul Congress also slammed the UPA government for ignoring the Verma panel’s recommendations. “A rapist is a rapist. There should not be any differentiation between a civilian and army personnel who commit crimes against women. The accused personnel should be tried and convicted under normal criminal law,” Trinamul spokesperson Rk. Shivachandra Singh said.
Manipur BJP spokesperson S. Tikendra said rape was a serious crime and therefore the ordinance was not adequate to deal with the crime, as it did not cover the crimes committed by armymen. “An act should be impartial.”
The Verma committee’s proposal to take immunity away from the armed forces under the act echoes a long-standing demand in the Northeast and Kashmir, where the act is enforced.
Personnel of armed forces operating in Manipur have reportedly committed many crimes against women, including rape and managed to escape punishment under the protection of the act. The prosecution of army personnel requires the sanction of the Union home ministry.
The Thangjam Manorama case is still pending in the Supreme Court as the ministry is unwilling to give sanction to prosecute the accused. She was picked up from her home and shot dead after being allegedly raped by Assam Rifles jawans in 2004.
Manipuris have been demanding repeal of the act, with Irom Sharmila on a fast-unto-death for more than 12 years.
Seminar on pageants
A daylong seminar organised on beauty pageants today recommended the constitution of an apex body of citizens to act as a supervisory body for such events in Manipur to ensure that beauty contests are suited to the culture and traditions of the people of Manipur.
The participants also recommended holding of a workshop “very soon” to work out the rules and regulations for beauty pageants.