For Kashmiris, freedom is only in words and not in deeds. There is not even a semblance of freedom in the world’s most heavily militarized zone, where they are stopped any time for security checks and their homes are often raided.
As the debate over the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) gets heated, it’s that indomitable quest for freedom that shook the established political arrogance to rethink about a possible revocation of this draconian law. Under this rule, the troops can forgo warrants and use force. It even allows the army to shoot or arrest anyone on mere suspicion, a rule often criticized to be powering the army with complete impunity against human rights violation. The AFSPA was initially passed 1958 giving special powers to the army to be exercised in specially categorized “disturbed areas” in the North-Eastern states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura. The Special Powers Act was later extended to Jammu and Kashmir in 1990.
The act clearly says, “Fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, against any person who is acting in contravention of any law” against “assembly of five or more persons” or possession of deadly weapons.” It also permits the forces to arrest without a warrant and with the use of “necessary” force anyone who has committed certain offenses or is suspected of having done so. The army also can enter and search any premise in order to make such arrests.
While the government figures tell us that insurgency and fatalities due to terrorist attacks are weakening, it’s startling to know that the soldiers-to-civilians ratio still remains to be very high that there is a soldier for every ten civilians in Kashmir.
However, the army has raised strong objections against the suggestions made by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah for the withdrawal of the controversial special powers to the troops and it reportedly has the full backing from the defense ministry. The army would never agree on proposals on diluting the AFSPA until soldiers are assured of legal protection against being dragged to civilian courts.
Backed by the Home Ministry‘s suggestion that violence-free areas can be denotified as “disturbed areas,” the state government is all-set to revoke the Disturbed Ares Act from districts like Badgam, Samba, Srinagar, and Jammu.
The iron-lady of Manipur Irom Sharmila‘s fight seems to have gotten the attention of the nation as several hundreds are taking it to the streets to join ‘Save Sharmila Solidarity Campaign which calls for the revocation of the special armed force act. Her decade-long Gandhian way of protest has become a nucleus for collective protest against the draconian law.
The account of human rights violations under the shadow of this law is unimaginable as it can be better said to be “over 50 years of human rights violation” in Kashmir and in the North-Eastern states. While the army should be given its needed freedom and adequate protection in its fight against insurgency, the revocation of this draconian law would be the much-needed taste of freedom from the gunpoint.
- End the culture of impunity, not just AFSPA: APDP (kafila.org)
- India campaign over ‘draconian’ anti-insurgent law (indianmilitarynews.wordpress.com)
- Lup flays attack on Sharmila supporters [The Sangai Express] (koksum.com)
- Army still opposed to withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from J&K (indianmilitarynews.wordpress.com)