India activists demand Manipur lawmakers’ resignations

By Wasbir Hussain GAUHATI, India, AP

Activists in the northeastern state of Manipur demanded that the state’s 60-member legislature resign for failing to force the Indian government to repeal a law they say has been used by armed forces to violate human rights.

Manipur has been wracked by daily protests since the death of Manorama Devi, 32, who was arrested July 11 by paramilitary soldiers for being a suspected rebel. Her body was found riddled with bullets the next day, and her family denies she was a militant.

The protesters have accused the security forces of killing Devi in custody.

Devi was arrested under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that allows soldiers to detain people without arrest warrants, search homes at any time and shoot anyone they suspect of disturbing public order.

“Our organization has asked the lawmakers to quit as they have failed to act together for withdrawal of the draconian law,” said Uma Kanta, spokesman of Apunba Lup, a grouping of 32 political and student outfits protesting the law.

“We have asked all the 60 members of the state assembly and the three members in (the national) Parliament to resign by Aug. 25 or face social boycott,” Kanta said.

Hundreds of protesters have been injured and a student leader has burned himself to death during the agitation, which included a four day general strike last week. The federal government has refused to repeal the law, although it has promised to hold talks with the protesters.

The government says the law, which has been in force in Manipur for 24 years, is necessary to counter insurgents in the state, where nearly 30 groups are fighting Indian troops with demands ranging from independence to wider autonomy.