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Human Rights Violations in the North-East

"Union government has failed to find political solutions to the problems that beset the north-eastern states, and have chosen instead to resort to extensive militarisation and repressive legislation"
April 2, 1997

A 14-member Fact Finding Mission, consisting of lawyers, journalists and various women's groups, has visited seven states of the north-east where the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is under operation and has come out with a 56,000 word report. This report with the help of exhaustive accounts based on interviews and investigations, establishes that the Act has disrupted normal civilian life, legitimized arbitrary killings of citizens by the security forces, led to illegal detention and custodial violence, denied the citizens their legitimate right to justice from the courts, undermined the authority of the civilian administration, and exploited inter-community (both tribal and non-tribal) rivalries through a policy of 'Divide and Rule".

The Fact Finding Mission, involved representatives from people's movements and human rights groups like the Narmada Bachao Andolan (Baroda); Saheli (Delhi); Indian Peoples' Human Rights Tribunal (Bombay); People's Union of Democratic Rights (Delhi); Association for protection of Democratic Rights(Calcutta); Vimochana (Bangalore), and the Naga Peoples' Movement for Human Rights (Imphal), Solidarity Group in Support of Restoration of Civil and Democratic Rights in the North East(Delhi). These representatives visited in April 1996, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Arunachal (the six states now under the Armed Forces-Special Powers-Act), as well as Meghalaya (which though outside the purview of the Act till now, was found by the Mission's team of investigators as a state where there was a "high, not to mention disturbing, military presence... accompanied by the widespread enforcement of several Draconian Acts such as the erstwhile TADA, NSA, and Meghalaya Preventive Detention Act...").

The report makes it clear, with abundant evidence collected meticulously from all these states, that the Union government has failed to find political solutions to the problems that beset the north-eastern states, and have chosen instead to resort to extensive militarisation and repressive legislation. In the process, it has distanced itself from the genuine needs and aspirations of the people of the region, and its security forces treat everyone - whether the common people, students' groups, women's organizations, human rights activists, or participants in democratic movements - as militants and secessionists to be suppressed by the use of military power. The report states: "In fact, many officials even felt that `outsiders' like the Fact Finding teams who go to make enquiries into human rights violations by security forces were `stooges' of militant groups".

The Fact Finding mission also notes that the inter-ethnic conflicts among the peoples of the region, has led to insularity and chauvinism among some movements, often resulting in fratricidal killings. It reminds the militant groups which have taken up arms that they must bear the responsibility for their actions and the impact of their armed struggle on civilian populations, especially on communities other than their own.

The report, while calling upon the militant groups to endeavour to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts and work to establish their democratic credentials, also urges the government to recognise the grievances that are being articulated by all kinds of groups in the north east, and find political solutions to them. Calling for an end to the 'cyclical nature of violence in the north-east', it warns: "As long as the government deals with the issues as law and order problems to be suppressed by military solutions, it will only cause the escalation of armed resistance".

-Press Release

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