Anti-AFSPA activists file RTI application at PMO

Anti-AFSPA activists file RTI application at PMO

Today on Monday 17 September 2007, an application under the Right-to-Information (RTI) Act has been filed by Suchi Pande in New Delhi demanding PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) to provide vital information pertinent to not only Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission but also Veerappan Moily Administrative Reforms Committee, which were Government-appointed bodies formed to review Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).

It is understood that these two reports recommended repealing the AFSPA that had led to gross violations of human rights by Indian troops in the conflict ridden region.

In October 2006, Union Home Ministry had endorsed the recommendations of the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission to repeal AFSPA (online at: http://www.e-pao.net/epRelatedNews.asp?heading=1&src=071005). The Act is still in force in Manipur, Assam and Nagaland.

Today also marks the fifth day of solidarity fast going on from September 13 at Keishampat junction, Imphal, Manipur, in support of Irom Chanu Sharmila, who has been fasting since past 7 years, demanding to repeal the AFSPA.

The RTI application demands certified copies of the following three vital information related to AFSPA:

* The reports of both the above mentioned commissions on AFSPA and their recommendations

* What action has been taken by the Government of India to comply with the recommendations of the above mentioned two government appointed bodies on AFSPA

The RTI application also makes a note that “If the PIO [Public Information officer of PMO] is of the view that the information or part thereof requested falls under section 8(1) of the RTI Act and is therefore exempt, please note that the PIO must read section 8 (1) and section 10 together and make available relevant portions of both the reports that are not exempt under section 8(1); at the same time as per section 10 provide reasons for the exempted sections”.

The present UPA Government had constituted the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission in 2004 to review AFSPA in response to an intensive campaign led by ‘Apunba Lup’. The ‘Apunba Lup’ in Manipur observed Anti-army Act Day on September 11 to mark the completion of five decades of the act in the North-East.

“It is not only the North-East region but the human rights violations are going on in almost every place of India. Uttar Pradesh has the highest number of encounter killings in the country, but there is no draconian law like the AFSPA there. The Government of India is biased against North-East and J&K in this aspect” said Dr Sandeep Pandey, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee (2002) and leader of NAPM (National Alliance of People’s Movements) and Asha Parivar.

The AFSPA which is operative at the time of a 'suspected' riot(s) in order to 'maintain public order', allows killing by shooting, entering and search of property, and arbitrary detention, etc., its abuse is currently spawning grave human rights violations in some parts of India. Under the powers of AFSPA, on 2 November 2000, the Indian military opened fire on its own citizens in the state of Manipur.

Since then, Irom Sharmila, a resident of the tragic state, has refused to eat and drink anything in resistance to indiscriminate use of the AFSPA against civilians.

The response of the Indian government to her resistance has been repetitively evasive: the government has repeatedly arrested her on a charge of 'attempted suicide', confined her in hospitals, and then freed her under applicable law, but, up until now, has failed to provide any fundamental alternative to the law in question.

Now RTI Act gives a beacon of hope to the people demanding AFSPA to be repealed.

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