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Power of 49: Women activists' demand to remove AFSPA still unfulfilled

Mar 08, 2014 08:00 AM IST India India

Imphal: On Women's Day, CNN-IBN's Power of 49 series highlights how women, who form 49 per cent of the electorate, are wielding greater power in the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections. However, in Manipur it seems politicians just do lip service about women's empowerment and the major demand of women activists to remove AFSPA still remains an unfulfilled dream.

Women of Manipur seem to have lost their trust on political leaders and it became evident when Irom Sharmila who is on a fast for over 12 years against AFSPA said a clear no to the Aaam Admi Party's offer for a Lok Sabha ticket.

People also seem to have forgotten Manorama Devi, the 32-year-old woman who was picked up from her home, brutally raped and murdered allegedly by Assam Rifles personnel in 2004. After 10 years Manorama Devi's mother is barely willing to answer any questions, but she is sill hopeful that the family would get justice. "The Armed Forces Special Powers Act must go. Only then peace will come," Manorama Devi's mother, Metei Khumanlei said.

"Nothing will help us. There was even the Jeevan Reddy Commission report. The government will do what it wants to do," Manorama Devi's brother, Dolendro said.

Former chief of the social organisation Apunba Lup, Lokendra Arambam said that there were no instances of liberal democracy. "I don't find any instances of liberal democracy when you live in a world of violence, the state is repressed and obsessed with a particular act," he added.

AFSPA was introduced in the state in 1958 to stop the Naga insurgency. Section 6 of the act reads "No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the central government against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act." It thus gives sweeping powers to the security forces to arrest, detain and kill anyone.

In fact in 2004 after the rape and murder of Manorama Devi, in an angry protest, 12 women disrobed in front of the Army headquarters in Imphal. Together they held a single length of white cloth. On it was written in red paint, "Indian Army Rape Us". Rest of India had to wake up and take notice. Yet after many visits and assurances nothing has changed on the ground.