The elections to the Legislative Assembly in Manipur have once again been held under the conditions of Army Rule and unbridled state terrorism. In the majority of districts, military and paramilitary troops enjoy the license to kill anyone on mere suspicion, a license which is provided by the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, or AFSPA.
Manipur has been under Army rule for over 40 years. An extremely parasitic economic system has developed under the political system of army rule. There is a corrupt and criminal nexus between the top officers of the armed forces, various armed groups which are formally banned and parasitic strata of businessmen and politicians who have been profiting from the present system. They all extract their shares of legal and illegal taxes from the toiling masses of people, in addition to the surplus value extracted by capitalist traders, industrialists, landlords, banks and money-lenders. The productive forces and creative energies of the people of Manipur are being sucked dry and destroyed by the political and economic system.
The farcical nature of assembly elections in Manipur is revealed by the extremely limited power enjoyed by the elected Legislative Assembly. There have been times in the past when the Legislative Assembly has unanimously voted in favour of withdrawing AFSPA, but the Central Government refused to comply.
AFSPA empowers the armed forces to shoot and kill anyone on mere suspicion, with full protection from any legal proceedings against such arbitrary killings, or fake encounters as they are called. As many as 1528 fake encounter killings have taken place in Manipur during the 10-year period 2005-2015, according to the Association of Victims of Extra-Judicial Execution (AVEJE).
With armed soldiers roaming in most parts of the state, with license to kill, it is farcical to claim that people are expressing their free will by casting their vote. It is an insult to the dignity and intelligence of the people of Manipur.
The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (1958) is modelled after a similar act that the British Colonial rulers enacted in 1942, to crush the rising tide of the anti-colonial struggle. After India gained independence, AFSPA was promulgated to crush the Naga people’s struggle for self-determination. It has been used against all the peoples inhabiting the different states of the North East, as well as the people of Jammu & Kashmir.
For the past 40 years and more, people from all walks of life within Manipur as well as progressive forces all over India have been demanding that the colonial AFSPA should be scrapped. It is this persistent and united struggle which compelled the Indian ruling class to withdraw AFSPA from the two districts in Manipur which cover the capital city of Imphal.
There is no justification for AFSPA to be operational in any part of Manipur. There is no justification for AFSPA to be operational in any part of the country.
The root of the problem lies in the fact that the Indian Union does not respect the national rights of its numerous constituent peoples.
The outlook of the big capitalists of India, who gained political power in 1947 in alliance with the big landlords, has always been colonial and imperialist. The Tatas, Ambanis, Birlas, Adanis and other monopoly houses who head the ruling bourgeois class consider the land and natural resources of the nations and nationalities as their private jagir, to be ruthlessly plundered. The Indian bourgeoisie treats the people of different nations and nationalities inhabiting our country in a manner similar to how the British colonialists treated our people. The Constitution of the Indian Republic reflects this outlook.
The Constitution proclaims India to be a union of states. These states are defined purely on a territorial basis. There is no recognition of the existence of distinct nations within India, let alone guaranteeing them the right to self-determination.
When the peoples of various nations and nationalities rose up in struggle to overthrow British colonial rule, they hoped that their national aspirations would be fulfilled in independent India. However, the Indian bourgeoisie has trampled on these aspirations. Their legitimate struggle for their national rights has been outlawed by the Indian Union. The struggles of the people for their rights have been treated as a “law and order” problem.
Manipur was an independent state with its own political system and constitution at the time of India’s independence. It was forcibly integrated into the Indian Union by kidnapping the King of Manipur, keeping him prisoner in Shillong and compelling him to sign a Merger Agreement behind the backs of his people and his Council of Ministers. The people of Manipur have continued to assert their national rights, for which they are treated as enemies of the Indian state. The armed forces have been deployed on a permanent basis to suppress them.
The official propaganda turns truth on its head by mixing up cause and effect. The national liberation struggle of the people is presented as the cause of the problem. The imposition of AFSPA and army rule are presented as an allegedly reasonable response to the people’s revolt. The truth is that the violation of national rights and human rights under Army rule and forcible suppression of people’s just struggles are the source of the problem. The people’s revolt is a response to the violation of their rights.
The longstanding demand for repeal of AFSPA has now been revived with renewed vigour. The recent killing of unarmed people by the central security forces in Nagaland has fuelled the anger of people both in Nagaland and in Manipur.
Repeal of AFSPA is an entirely just demand. AFSPA must be completely scrapped.
The ongoing elections under Army rule show the utterly grotesque character of Indian democracy. The bourgeoisie rules through the bullet and the ballot. When workers, peasants, women, youth and peoples of the different nations and nationalities assert their rights, they face brutal repression by the armed forces. Periodic elections are organised to legitimise the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over the broad masses of people of all states. When the party in charge of the executive gets discredited in the eyes of the people, the bourgeoisie replaces it by one of its trusted parties in the opposition, which will implement the same agenda. The people of Manipur have bitter experience of this.
The Indian union needs to be reconstituted on a voluntary basis to ensure that the constituent nations and peoples have the right to self-determination. The relation between the union and its constituents must be redefined to respect the economic, political and cultural rights of all the peoples who together make up India.
There is need to carry out a radical transformation of the existing political system to ensure that sovereignty vests in the hands of the people. The party dominated political process which marginalises the people needs to be done away with. In its place, we need to innovate a new political process which empowers people to control their representatives and exercise decision-making power. The duty of a political party in such a system must be to provide the leading organised consciousness and vision with which people can govern themselves.