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Forum renews plea on army act repeal

- Rebels, Delhi asked to respect laws

Imphal, Jan. 23: North East Dialogue Forum, a network of NGOs, today renewed its demand to repeal the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and urged both Delhi and militant groups to respect international humanitarian laws.

The forum also urged militants groups to sign Geneva Call’s Deed of Agreement, which requires signatories to refrain from planting landmines and from recruitment of childrenand sexual crimes.

The forum is a network of NGOs from the Northeast, which are working on various issues like human rights and environment.

Its renewed demand for repeal of the army act today is seen a part of a stepped-up campaign by citizens’ groups in Manipur.

The demand comes at a time when civil society groups of Manipur are working on the constitution of a working group to chart out the course of action against the act.

The groups are determined to force Delhi to act on recommendations made by various committees to repeal the act this year itself, which marks the completion of 14 years of hunger strike by Irom Sharmila demanding scrapping of the act.

“This law is against the spirit of democracy. The Centre should listen to the voice of the people,” P.B.M. Baisaiawmoit, the former vice-president of the National Council of Churches and adviser to the forum, told reporters here.

Baisaiawmoit, who is from Shillong, came here to meet rights activists to continue the campaign against the act.

He said the government should accept the Jeevan Reddy Commission Committee’s recommendation, which sought to repeal the act.

He said Sharmila would complete 14 years of her hunger strike this year and that she was a strong contender for the Nobel peace prize for dedicating her life.

The forum also urged the Centre to compensate all victims of rape, torture and families of victims of civilians killed under the act and to strengthen the state police force with modern infrastructure for effective investigation and timely delivery of justice.

Another demand raised by the forum is the setting up of a “truth and reconciliation commission” to bring about a reconciliation between the victims and the oppressors.

The forum also demanded that all militant groups should stop factional killings and reconcile among themselves in the larger interest of the people.

“In war or violent armed conflict, both the conflicting parties should allow humanitarian services, protect women and children,” Baisaiawmoit said.