The sight of men in uniform has increasingly created a sense of insecurity among the local population especially in conflict zones whether it is Kashmir or Northeast. However people from the mainland had always viewed this reality as anti-establishment. As such it remained unexamined from a rational prism about the policy and practice of security personnel in these regions within and beyond AFSPA 1958. Decades of testimonies of men, women and children have been screaming about the fear of men in uniform disturbing every sense of serenity in remote peripheries. Their unaccountable impunity rippled to the urban districts in the guise of fake encounters which could intimidate anyone anytime. It was to this chilling reality that the people of Manipur confronted with all its might for four months in 2009 to restore the sense of Right to Life in the State.
The State has learned to devalue the Rights of its citizens in the name of fighting “insurgency”. Though it remains equally murky whether the policy is fanning or fizzling the peoples’ movements. However insecurity among the laypeople increases starkly in the last two decades inspiring intellects and artist to express this anxiety in varied hues at various platforms. Yet the State remained adamant to an approach that reduces the Right to Life of its citizens to a mere slogan, while deaths are reduced to mere statistics in some Human Rights records.
It is in this backdrop that the chilling revelation of Thounaojam Herojit, a cop compelled to shoot an unarmed person as ‘duty’, confirms the ugly politics of impunity and additional support of the highest ruling authorities. Testimonies across communities have marked this tattered painful history of subjugation under the right and might of the security personnel without any relevance of both national and international norms and legality. Conflict has indeed become a playground of abuse, a wrestling of the armed security personnel with the muted citizens.
Apparently security personnel guard the interest of the people in power and their interest in the society not the rights of the common citizens. It is this reality that was reflected in the confession of the cop which exposes the system of impunity conveniently supported by the State at the cost of peoples’ Right to Life. The State has predictably denied the story as mere allegations. Hence the question at hand now is whether the public will be able to wrestle the State to prove its “innocence” or will the sacrificial testimony of a cop risking his life and family’s security be wasted on dormant citizens.
Will the forefront leaders consider the real sustained inclusion of women in the cry for justice or will women’s participation be reduced to sensationalisation and human shields? Will the communities consider the abuse to our Right to Life as a cross cutting agenda or will the response to the same enemy be confined in separate cultures? Will the young generation be able to empathise with this genocide within or will the ambitions of modernity sway them from such politics of romanticising peace. Four days after the confession stirs our conscience, we seem to wait for the call to come from the grave of Sanjit and Rabina. The responsibility of the living to defend the rights of the living against the overarching power of the State cannot be reduced to a few activists. It will please the State to mark its target to a lesser number but the sense of insecurity of the common people will continue to prevail. We have to wake up to this clarion call collectively, as people equally vulnerable to exploitation, as people who value the Right to Life of all citizens without any compromise.
Leader Writer: Grace Jajo