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New Year plea to repeal army act

Imphal, Jan. 2: To mark the New Year, a city-based rights group, Human Rights Alert, has sent a memorandum to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) to push for repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act.

“We all have our own way of celebrating the New Year. Human Rights Alert did so by submitting a petition to the NHRC requesting it to take serious action on AFSPA,” Babloo Loitongbam, executive director of the rights group, said today.

The petition urges the commission to advise the cabinet committee on security to move to repeal the act and write letters to each member of Parliament in both Houses as done in the case of Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act to protect human rights.

“We sincerely hope the NHRC will consider this request with all the seriousness it deserves,” the petition concludes.

As Manipur welcomed the New Year by organising parties and picnics, top functionaries of the rights group gathered at their small office at Kwakeithel, on the outskirts of the city, to draft the petition over cups of tea.

The petition is only the beginning of things to come in the year.

The novel way of celebrating the day was meant to give a strong signal to both the Centre and the state government that the rights group would step up its campaign against the act, dubbed a “draconian law” by rights activists, to strengthen the hands of rights crusader Irom Sharmila, who has been on fast for 14 years to press for repeal of the act.

Today, citizens’ groups, particularly rights groups, gathered at the same office again to chalk out strategies.

“We are planning a people’s convention here on Sunday to finalise our course of action. We intend to force the government to repeal the act this year,” Loitongbam told The Telegraph.

He said it has been a decade since Prime Minister Manmohan Singh promised to replace the act with one “more humane”.

The promise had come during the height of people’s uprising in 2004 against the alleged rape and killing of Thangjam Manorama by troops of the Assam Rifles in Imphal East district.

“It is time for the Centre to fulfill the promise. We will not rest until the act goes,” Loitongbam added.

He said the rights groups in Manipur have faith in the national commission, which held a three-day camp here in October last year to listen to the complaints of victims of the act and also met Sharmila.

The petition cited recommendations made by the Second Administrative Reforms Commission, Verma Committee and Jeevan Reddy Committee, among others, to back its argument for the need to repeal the act.

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