The depraved outcomes of AFSPA: from killing fields to Urban necropolises
For long decades have this country that is called India, also known as Bharat, tolerated a ruthlessly violent law that is profoundly discriminatory and applicable only to ethnic minorities of a specific region. A prolonged local and national peaceful campaign of resistance with strong resonance at the international level has been futile so far in reaching its objective. The government of this nation has time and again taken a stand that is unswervingly in conflict with the national and international public opinion. During the last decade, with the international community’s increasingly unified and consistent stand that this law called AFSPA should be repealed as it has no place in a democracy, no accountability in a legal framework and is most arbitrary in its application, this condition of dispute and disconnect between the governed and government has reached the wider visible sphere of public life across India. In fact, it may be now safely said that AFSPA and its sordid details have become the talk of the towns and its markets in every nook and corner of this country, and especially in the inner cities.
This seeming futility in our search for a just solution that satisfies the prerogative of national security interests and yet also provides for a democratic and accountably just solution seems to have a rather unpredictable, and sociologically most strange, distant outcome. The true meaning of discrimination embedded in AFSPA has now exploded in public life in the metropolises in form of violent racist expressions such as sexual abuse, rape, cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment, and arbitrary slayings of persons belonging to the national ethnic minorities of our region. Yes, indeed, Delhi and many other cities have become “a graveyard for NE people”.
India’s metros exhibit today a very disquieting trend in psychological development in, and interaction with, a social environment. On the one hand, the social environment and economic transformation phenomenon is altering at a rapid rate, affecting every corner of the country. This trend is especially prominent in the North East territories of India. And one of its most outstanding expressions is the economic migration of NE people to the metros. In fact, the faces of these metros are undergoing a prominent makeover; a new ‘ethnicisation’, so to say. Publicly or privately accessible visual imageries in the inner cities include the face of the NE people, especially of the youth. Clubbing today in Bangalore or New Delhi would be ‘imperfect’ without NE persons. Dating someone from the North East region has become a decisive fashion statement. The faces of Cyndy Khojol, Lin Laishram, Bala Hijam and many others have hit national and international glamour media, something unheard of only ten years ago.
On the other hand, this psychosocial transformation in the metros has a very different impact on established middle class, especially the urban lower middle class. Bombarded with this new imagery and aware of the geopolitical implications of AFSPA, this class has now become the exposed seam of racist hate that has long been propagated and promoted by the state. Though no empirical studies have been done on the correlation between the prolonged application and publicity of AFSPA and its long-term impact in India’s urban attitudes toward the ethnic minorities of the North East, we now have observable evidence that the two have inescapable parallels.
Just as the Indian security forces have been consistently implicated in a wide range of serious human rights abuses on the personal safety and integrity of the people of North East, such as sexual abuse, rape, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment or punishment, and arbitrary executions, we now witness the same treatment being meted to us with impunity and increasingly ferocious racist crimes on the city streets. I cannot but help myself from seeing this ghastly parallel. We are now seeing the gentrification of AFSPA, where the dirty job is no longer done by the law enforcement machinery but by the citizenry themselves! A draconian and racist law has a deeply sinister psychosocial impact on public life that is rotting the very foundations of democracy and tolerant secularism. AFSPA, deeply anchored in racist attitudes that found expression in national legislation, has come home to roost! Tragically, this is also seeing the ‘killing fields’ in our region being transported to the metros as ‘urban necropolises’ with the same lethal consequences for our people.
Dr. Laifungbam Debabrata Roy
Yaiskul Police Lane, Imphal