Impunity beyond AFSPA


Manipur is quite familiar with the word impunity. Thanks to all the draconian laws, in particular the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA, in the name of counterinsurgency, the place also probably understands all the nuances of the meaning of the word better than most others. At its very raw, it essentially means, perpetrators being given the power to get away with daylight murder. Yes, as so many have said over and over again, it is not so much the sweeping powers to use military might, but the legal impunity that comes with these powers which inhibits legal suits against perpetrators, which has proven the most dangerous and frustrating for those who believe in the rule of law as the way to justice. Impunity is also the key difference between atrocities against citizens by military under the provisions of the AFSPA and those by the police. In the latter case, the ordinary citizens are not altogether disempowered as they can take legal recourse to seek justice. In recent times, we have seen how the case of the sensational daylight murder in what has now come to be known as “BT Road shooting case”, unfolded. After the murder was exposed as custodial killing by Tehelka magazine, the police personnel involved were hauled up. Full justice still has not been done in the case, but at least it was demonstrated how the victims are left with means to legally hit back at their tormentors. This is despite the fact that the climate of impunity which the AFSPA introduced, had at one time come to affect the police too, and they too came to think they were untouchables in the eye of the law.

This is a well-known scenario legal scenario, written and re-written many thousands of time in the decades that have gone by, and the tragedy is universally acknowledged. We however do not want to go back to this again but touch on other unacknowledged impunities we as a collective have allowed to prevail because of our unconcern. They exist everywhere and their everydayness has also largely normalized them. Take for instance the way our roads are built. Everybody knows they are not built to last, yet nobody has taken the trouble to find out if they were meant to be built the way they have been. Why have our numerous civil society organisations not taken the trouble to insist on having the contractual agreements by which these roads were to be made, put on public spheres? As for instance, if a contract has been awarded for a particular stretch of road to be built, why cannot the approved tender papers and the specifications of the job to be executed, as well as the the public money agreed to be invested in it, etc., be circulated to the public. Since this is not made transparent, those awarding the contracts, executing them and those who are supposed to be monitoring them, have always been given the liberty to scratch each other’s back to share the loot that come out of not doing the job as per specifications. Nobody will doubt this liberty has been used without restraint, and the proofs are all the super expensive SUVs on the roads of this impoverished state today.

There are many other everyday impunity we have allowed to flourish because of our unconcern. Take the case of many of the courier services in the state, and the popular DTDC is the prime example. They expect the addressees to come and collect parcels from their offices and refuse to home deliver when the customers refuse. The fact is, the service fees customers pay include home delivery costs so when these courier services refuse to home deliver, they are making unfair profits by not employing delivery personnel. Looked another way, they are also killing a certain category of local jobs the money we pay for their service were meant to generate. Yet, none of our many market-watch organisations, or individuals who have suffered because of this practice, have complained, much less filed PILs. These couriers have also caused a cascading string of troubles for their customers. Many would have noticed how an increasing number of online vendors using the platforms of well-known online retailers such as Ebay, Amazon and Flipkart are now declaring they do not deliver at addresses in Manipur. The truth is, when customers complain of their goods not arriving, these retailers hold back the payments to their vendors and return the money to the buyers. The vendors then have to go through all trouble of having to seek return of the goods they mailed etc. Why are we not doing anything to expose these seemingly innocent, but nonetheless organised rackets?

Source: Imphal Free Press


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