*TRIGGER WARNING: INCLUDES DESCRIPTION OF RAPE & MURDER
Ms. Thangjam’s death led to months of local protests, including one in which a dozen women stripped naked in front of the local military headquarters carrying a red-lettered banner, “Indian Army Rape Us.” The circumstances of her death were so outrageous that even the prime minister at the time, Manmohan Singh, promised redress.
But a decade later, no one has been arrested or charged with a crime. Activists, lawyers and ordinary people here say they know exactly why: a colonial-era law in effect in India’s periphery that gives blanket immunity from prosecution in civilian courts to Indian soldiers for all crimes, including rape.
Human rights advocates have for years called for the repeal of the law, known as the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. Christof Heyns, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, wrote last year in a report to the United Nations Human Rights Council that the powers granted under the law “are in reality broader than that allowable under a state of emergency as the right to life may effectively be suspended.”