(Hong Kong, March 15, 2010) The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) and the Human Rights Alert (HRA) organised a protest rally today in Hong Kong calling upon the Government of India to initiate steps to end the culture of impunity in Manipur.
Mohammad Ashrafuzzaman, speaking on behalf of the AHRC in the meeting said: "The ongoing violence in Manipur can end only if the culture of impunity ends in that state."
"The region, and Manipur in particular, is marred with violence committed by both state and non-state actors ... the issues in Manipur are intense and long-pending, that for several reasons Manipur could be said as the Tibet of India..." Ashrafuzzaman added.
The protesters gathered at Charter Garden at 11am today and marched to the Indian consulate. At the consulate, the protesters submitted a petition addressed to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, to the Consul General of India. The petition urges the government to initiate steps to end impunity in Manipur. Several persons participated in the rally. The Consul General accepted the petition and promised that he would transmit the petition to the prime minister's office in New Delhi immediately.
Contrary to the practice of their counterparts in India, and to the surprise of the participants of the rally, the Hong Kong Police department ensured that the rally does not interrupt the traffic and further informed the Indian consulate about the rally and the intension of the rally organisers to submit a petition to the Consul General.
The petition submitted to the Prime Minister of India by the AHRC and the HRA has been part of an online campaign marking the birthday of Ms. Irom Sharmila, the iron lady of Manipur. The HRA has also organised a similar campaign in India.
Speaking to the media, Ashrafuzzaman said: "Sharmila represents the voice of the voiceless in India, and in particular, the people of Manipur. Her fast is not just to pressure the government to withdraw the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 from the state, though the Act in itself is one of the major reasons for perpetual violence in the state…The protest today is a call to the government to withdraw this draconian law from Manipur."
"Sharmila's struggle is a strong call to end impunity in Manipur, for which both the state as well as non-state actors have a role to play. Unless the state ends its acts of violence, it has no morale to expect the militant groups operating in the state to stop committing violence. The atrocious acts of violence committed by the state and its agencies with impunity have only worsened the situation in the state." "Counter militancy operations must be conducted within the framework of the Indian Constitution, and the domestic and international law that binds India. AFSPA negates all these legal premises, which unfortunately has been receiving legal and moral support even from the Supreme Court of the country." Ashrafuzzaman added.
354 persons have signed the petition. The petition filed by the AHRC and the HRA is reproduced below.
Dr. Manmohan Singh,
Honourable Prime Minister
Government of India
South Block, Raisina Hill
New Delhi - 110 011
Through the Honourable Consulate General of India
Asian Human Rights Commission is writing to express solidarity to the ten-year-long fast of Ms. Irom Sharmila Chanu, the Iron Lady of Manipur and her cause.
We are informed that Sharmila has started the fast on 4 November 2000, protesting against the violence committed by state and non-state actors in Manipur. We are aware that the protest also demands an immediate end of impunity in the state, for which the withdrawal of the martial law, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA), from Manipur is a prerequisite.
We are worried about the sufferings of the ordinary people of Manipur at the hands of the underground militant organisations as well as the state agencies.
We are aware that the AFSPA is enforced in Manipur to support government actions in the state in countering secessionist activities and underground militant acts. Yet, it is now certain that the AFSPA has not helped in countering militancy in Manipur, but in fact has enraged it.
We are informed that the climate of impunity is one of the reasons why conflict continues in Manipur.
The AFSPA, as far we understand is an addition to the overall impunity framework that has contributed to the deterioration of the state of rule of law in Manipur. Our opinion is also shared by national bodies including Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee; the Second Administrative Reforms Commission; and the Prime Minister's Working Group on Confidence-Building Measures in Jammu and Kashmir. We are informed that these eminent bodies have recommended the government to withdraw AFSPA from operation since they are of the informed opinion that a law like the AFSPA will only facilitate violence and not prevent it.
We are convinced that under the current circumstances in Manipur the withdrawal of AFSPA will not in itself solve the Manipur crisis.
Yet, it could be a bold and open step by the government to show that it is determined to find solution to an armed conflict that has haunted an entire generation in the state. The withdrawal of AFSPA from Manipur will be recognition to the sufferings of the state's people and an expression of respect and acknowledgment of their rights.
Additionally, withdrawing AFSPA from Manipur will be a catalyst to end the climate of impunity in the state.
Md. Ashrafuzzaman Zaman
for Executive Director
Asian Human Rights Commission
19/F, Go-Up Commercial Building
998 Canton Road, Kowloon
Hong Kong, China
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About AHRC: The Asian Human Rights Commission is a regional non-governmental organisation monitoring and lobbying human rights issues in Asia. The Hong Kong-based group was founded in 1984.