The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Humane garb for ‘black law’
- PM braves bandh, promises amendment to army act; Sharmila steadfast on repeal

Imphal, Dec. 2: In an attempt to calm frayed nerves in Manipur, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today announced that the controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act would be amended to make it more “humane”.

“I believe that we need to consider some amendments to the act by modifying the existing provisions or inserting new ones. Thereby it will be made more humane, giving due regard to the protection of basic human rights,” Singh said during a public reception inside the historic Kangla Fort this afternoon.

Stating that the people of Manipur are entitled to the same privileges and legal protections that people in other parts of the country enjoy, the Prime Minister said the home ministry was working on the amendment.

“Once these amendments are in place, I am hopeful that many of your grievances will be addressed.”

Terming the demands of the people of Manipur as legitimate, Singh said the Jeevan Reddy committee, set up to review the provisions of the act, had done its job. He, however, did not mention what action the Centre might initiate on the basis of the report.

The report, which is yet to be released officially, has recommended repeal of the act after incorporating certain provisions into the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Stressing the need to bring a lasting peace to the state, Singh said, “We need to work for a future where there will be no need for such special acts. We look forward to a peaceful, progressive and prosperous Manipur.”

Terming the present situation in Manipur as “far from normal,” Singh said he had come to Manipur to initiate a new process which would help establish the Manipuris’ “legitimate aspirations” for a life with self respect.

“The armed forces are here to enforce the rule of law, punish law-breakers and ensure safety of the Manipuris. Sometimes action of a few people triggers public resentment. However, by and large, the army is here to do its duty. If peace is given a chance in this state, there will be no need to use the army,” he said. Singh promised that the Centre would do everything possible to protect the interests of the people of the state.

Singh’s announcement seems to have had little impact on Irom Sharmila, the relentless crusader against the army act. Sharmila, who is on a hungerstrike in New Delhi demanding repeal of the act, today refused to call off her protest. “I will continue my fast till the draconian act is repealed,” Sharmila said, adds PTI from New Delhi.

“Singh’s announcement is nothing but a statement. So far, there is no concrete action and there is no question of her calling off her fast,” her brother Irom Shingjit Singh said.

Speaking on Manipur’s territorial integrity vis-à-vis Nagaland, the Prime Minister also said the boundary of the state would not be tampered with.


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