Posts Tagged ‘Seven Sisters’


“They kept on pouring water into my nostrils until the water came out in my ears; it felt warm inside my ears. Then they stamped on both my thighs while two persons held my feet while another man sat on my head… They touched the wires’ ends to my chest and gave me shocks three times. Each time I felt as if my whole body had contracted… I keep remembering how they used to beat me and see everything that happened to me vividly.”
– 14-year-old child tortured by Indian soldiers in the Northeastern state of Manipur
(Witness statement of arrest and torture in Manipur cited in L.A. Pinto and N. Thockchom, Indigenous Children of North East India: the denial of childhood, Centre for Organization Research and Education, Imphal, Manipur, 2000)

This is just one incident that is expressed and recorded, just one among thousands. And this was not new for the region where such torture, encounters, murders and rapes were a regular affair. The people lived constantly under the shadow of the gun, under the shadow of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act).


The Indian states of the ‘seven sisters’ province are Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. These states were granted autonomy when the British left in 1947, but were merged with India two years later in a treaty. Many of the 38 million-strong population believe that this merger was forced upon their king. This led to freedom movements, further leading to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act – the Indian Government’s attempt to regain control. The main aim of AFSPA was to counter the insurgency of opposition groups and to give immunity to the armed forces working in hostile environments.


The Armed Forces Special Powers Bill was passed by both the Houses of Parliament. A new ordinance was adopted by the Indian Government in May 1958, then endorsed by the Parliament in August 1958, and given presidential assent on September 11, 1958. It came onto the Statute Book as ‘The Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958.’
The AFSPA is a photocopy of the 1942 British ordinance intended to deal with the Indian independence movement (Quit India movement) during World War II. It was enacted as a short-term measure to allow the deployment of the army in India’s Northeastern Naga Hills. But since then, AFSPA has become a permanent act and exists for five decades.
States of Northeast – Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland come under the act’s purview. Similar laws were also applied to counter militancy in Punjab from 1985 to 1994. Later in July 1990, the Act was extended to the Kashmir valley, when the insurgency was at its peak.


AFSPA gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, to kill, arrest on insubstantial pretext, conduct warrantless searches and demolish structures in the name of ‘aiding civil power.’ Equipped with these special powers, soldiers have raped, tortured, ‘disappeared’ and killed Indian citizens without fear of being held accountable.
According to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), in an area that is proclaimed as ‘disturbed,’ an officer of the armed forces has powers to:

  • Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law against assembly of five or more persons or possession of deadly weapons
  • To arrest without a warrant and with the use of  necessary force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so
  • To enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests

It gives legal immunity to the Army officers for their actions. There can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under this law.


Instead of controlling the situation, AFSPA has over the years, made it more draconian and brutal. Some of the cases that have become known are just the tip of a huge iceberg.

Wee hours of July 11, 2004 and a 32-year-old Thangjam Manorama Devi was arrested without a warrant by the members of the 17th Assam Rifles from her residence. According to the Assam Rifles, she was a hardcore cadre of the proscribed People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and one who had been involved in a series of IED blasts resulting in injury and deaths of many civilians and members of the security forces. (This was never proved as no arms were recovered and no proofs were gathered)
The young woman was allegedly tortured, raped and murdered. The next day her bullet-ridden body was recovered from a field near her home in Imphal, entirely bruised and torn apart with several gunshots, one piercing her private part. A cloth had been inserted at that place to stop the blood from oozing out. 

This shook entire India. On July 12, 2004, 32 local organizations came together in a conglomeration called Apunba Lup, to launch a movement to demand the AFSPA be repealed. But this was not enough. What followed, on July 15, 2004 was an iconic protest by the members of Meira Paibis group, a mass-based Meitei women’s human rights movement, who protested in front of the Kangla Fort, the then headquarters of the Assam Rifles. 12 women stripped with a banner which said, ‘Indian Army Rape us.’ While they cried aloud “We are the mothers and sisters of Manorama, rape us!” The rage and the agony were clearly visible on the women’s faces and the image of Manorama’s corpse filled in their eyes. This surreal ‘Naked Protest’ sunk in the hearts and minds of Indians and the Government and Armed Forces’ acts were stripped naked. The statement was so loud that it echoed and reverberated across the nation and the world as a whole.
A few days after Manorama’s murder, Pastor Jamkholet Khongsai was inhumanly murdered by the Assam Rifles in Manipur. When his body was dug out, innumerable boot marks were found on his chest.
A new, brave chapter in the history of AFSPA was written by a ‘Human Torch’. In a daring protest, Pebam Chittaranjan Mangang, advisor of Manipuri Students Federation attempted self-immolation at Bishnupur on August 15, 2004. He sprinkled himself with inflammable materials. After torching himself, Chittaranjan ran from the CI College complex to the office of the Deputy Commissioner, Bishnupur, about one and half kilometer from the college complex. He said in his final wriiten note “I have embraced death as the right choice for me and after a deep thinking I have decided to kill myself as a burning Human Torch and leave this world ahead of you all. Hundreds will come to follow me.”

  • Back in the 1960s, a girl named Chanu Rose was raped by the Army, who later committed suicide. Ever since then, there have been several incidents of molestation, rape and torture by Army men; even pregnant women were not spared.
  • Thousands of parents have gone insane as their children go ‘missing’, never to be seen again.

We are neither protecting militants nor fighting the security forces. Our only concern is the safety of our nation, our future. The struggle is to protect the people caught in the crossfire between militants and security forces.

The death of the core of all fundamental freedoms and human rights, the slaughter of justice, right to life leads to bereavement and the devil AFSPA reigns!

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Where is Manipur in India?

Eeerr.. North..

Ok. Which are the seven sister states of India?

Eh, I guess Assam, Manipur.. Well, don’t remember them all.

Have you heard of Irom Sharmila?

Aaah, naah.. Who’s she, oops or is it he?!

Fine, leave it. Heard of Anna Hazare?

Oh, obviously. He fasted for 3 long days for India, how would I not know him?

Wow, kudos. Arey, I guess you even participated in that candle light march for him, right?

That’s thrilling! Thrilling se yaad aaya, Japan was hit hard yaar..

Oh yeah. You know man, more than 15000 people died. And the nuclear blast at Fukushima, people had to face the fear of contamination of even food and drinks.

Hmm, all these are the in things, adds a touch of glamour if you even talk about them. But ever thought about the contamination of the mindsets of the people?

“Ever heard of a lady who is on fast
for a cause since last ten years?”

Do you know, that cause is to fight against the armed forces, the section of the society that we consider the most revered? It’s about a draconian act where any damn person is brutally tortured, murdered or raped, without any particular reason. It’s about Irom Sharmila, a hero in true sense. Let’s recognize her before it’s too late. I know, this is neither glamorous nor the talked about issue, but it’s the voice of our conscience. She is posing a question that lays unanswered. We have to revert.


Manipur is one of the Indian states, of the ‘seven sisters’ province of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland. These are among the most neglected and underdeveloped parts of India. Manipur is 22% behind the national average for infrastructural development, and the entire north-eastern region is 30% behind the rest of India. Also, its main languages, which belong to the Tibeto-Chinese family, were not recognized as Indian languages until the recent Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.
Manipur was granted autonomy when the British left in 1947, but was merged with India two years later in a treaty that many of its 2.3 million-strong population believe was forced upon their king. This led to freedom movements, further leading to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1980 – the Indian Government’s attempt to regain control.

The biggest irony of this act that was established to control the situation is that the North-East was the most peaceful area until it came within the purview of this act.


“Nothing is impossible or unreachable

In that place where truth is lucid and pure

No excuse exists for untruth

Human wrongs are punished

Not excused or ignored”

– Irom Sharmila Chanu
Irom Sharmila Chanu – a poet, a writer and an activist, was born in the state of Manipur on March 14, 1972. She is the best example of a living Gandhian, who staunchly follows a hunger strike that she resolved to on November 4, 2000. She is fighting against the Government of India to repeal the act known as AFSPA, Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, from the state of Manipur and other areas of the North-East.

• Sharmila has not taken a single morsel of food or a single drop of water since ten long years.
• To make sure that even a drop of water does not break her oath, she uses dry cotton to clean her teeth and dry spirit for her lips.

• Her body has wasted inside and her menstrual cycles have stopped.

• Sharmila has vowed not to meet or even see her mother until her wish is fulfilled.

• She has given up footwear.

• She has decided to leave her hair unoiled and uncombed until the act is repealed.


Place: Malom Village, near Imphal.

It was a dark, cold evening. The shiver and the darkness was also seen in people’s minds and hearts. Some called out for a separate state, others for autonomy while some extreme groups demanded nothing but complete independence. There was tremendous outrage and one of the insurgent groups gave a form to this rage. They attacked the paramilitary base that night, adding fuel to the armed forces’ fire.

The dark, cold evening moved on to be a numbed and cold-blooded morning. As a routine, ten people, common people, like you and me, were waiting at the Malom bus stop. The Assam Rifles of the paramilitaries pulled up and opened fire. The ten lay there, becoming the victims of an offense they had not committed, or probably didn’t even know about. No evidence, no time to think, no opportunity to react. It was a bloodthirsty revenge for the previous night’s attack.
This was not new for the region where such encounters, murders and rapes was a regular affair. The people lived constantly under the shadow of the gun. The killings would have remained just another photographs in the next day’s local newspaper, if Irom Sharmila had not decided to protest. The happening triggered her conscience and she was unnerved. She ate a meal that her mother had prepared, took her blessings and has not eaten ever since.

The turmoil was named the ‘Malom Massacre’, hardly known and rarely told!


On the third day of Sharmila’s fast, she was jailed by the police and charged with an “attempt to commit suicide.” However, such a charge allows detention in jail for just 364 days. As a result, she has never been brought to trial and is annually released and rearrested. Also, with her determination of not to take food or water, she is force-fed through a plastic tube. The tube was inserted into her nose and a liquid nutrient was inserted into her body. She has been surviving on this liquid diet and in solitary confinement as a high security prisoner for the last ten years.

• Sharmila is not even permitted to exercise or walk outside in the daylight, a right routinely granted to those convicted of the most serious crimes.

• To meet her, one needs the permission of the Chief Minister and four other senior administrative, police and jail officials of the state.
In times when violence is on the rise and we are increasingly progressing in a more aggressive world, the silent, peaceful protest of Sharmila is something that has not caught the eyes, hearts and minds of the people. For all her valiant struggle, the sad truth is that it has not really moved the Indian Government or the security forces to change their stand on the repeal of the AFSPA. The situation is still the same, but you can add a ray of hope. Spread the awareness, support Sharmila in her cause. Let us shed away the indifference.

The struggle of Sharmila does not just defend the human rights in Manipur, but it is reshaping the very foundations of democracy in India.

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