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Time for AFSPA to go

Or use it in selected areas for restricted periods of time.

Written by R R Palsokar | Updated: November 19, 2014 7:32 am
Certain areas along the LoC could have AFSPA permanently in force. In other areas, let the police (with army in support) seek and impose AFSPA for a limited period of time. (Source: Reuters) Certain areas along the LoC could have AFSPA permanently in force. In other areas, let the police (with army in support) seek and impose AFSPA for a limited period of time. (Source: Reuters)

The Indian army needs to be commended for having meted out exemplary punishment to the officers and jawans involved in the fake encounter at Machil. As a former armyman, one can understand the anguish and soul-searching behind this necessary and hard decision. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides protection to soldiers in such circumstances, has come under scrutiny once again and calls for its repeal have reached a crescendo. There is merit in the argument that AFSPA has outlived its utility, and must go.

It is worth recalling that while AFSPA was introduced in 1958, the Assam Disturbed Areas Act was enacted in 1955 to provide a legal framework for security forces to deal with the Naga insurgency. When the army was inducted soon thereafter, the then army chief in a Special Order of the Day exhorted his troops, “…you are not to fight the people of the area but to protect them (from disruptive elements)… you must therefore do everything possible to win their confidence and respect…” It is a sad commentary that half a century later, AFSPA still remains in force in the Northeast and the clamour for its revocation has come from events in Kashmir, where it was imposed in 1990. It is sadder still that despite untold sacrifices, the army seems to have lost the “confidence and respect” of the people. If that is the case, then it is time that AFSPA went.

If the act is revoked, how will it affect the security of the country? First, the basics. Every Indian will agree that there can be no compromise on the territorial integrity of the country. It is the Constitution that provides that India will be a Union of States (Article 1) and it has no provision to cede territory (sub-Clause 3). Article 51 enjoins all citizens “to uphold and protect the sovereignty, unity and integrity of India”. So any demand for separation is to be resisted. Look now at the security aspects. Our executive machinery at the district level has always had the authority to use force, requisitioning troops if necessary, to restore law and order. So, whenever the armed forces operate, they are acting in aid of the civil authority. It follows that once the situation is brought under control, the civil administration re-assumes responsibility. If the government machinery in Kashmir is prepared to assume responsibility, the army would only be happy to go back to their task of protecting the Line of Control (LoC).

Is a via media possible? Yes, use AFSPA in selected areas and for restricted periods of time. For example, certain areas along the LoC could have AFSPA permanently in force. In other areas, let the police (with army in support) seek and impose AFSPA for a limited period of time. Agreed that AFSPA must go, but answer a basic question, who needs its protection more, the armed forces or the civil administration? There are no easy answers.

The writer is a retired brigadier

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  1. J
    Jai Hind
    Dec 3, 2014 at 10:38 am
    Against their own people India imposed AFSPA to make this country a safe place. Armies torture, rape and kill anyone they want in Kashmir and NE states and they get away with it. Against the real threat ie. China they never could even raise a voice even after China has occupied a huge area of Indian territory. Whom you have to protect you kill! Whom you have to fight against you hide! Jai Hind!
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    1. J
      Jai Hind
      Dec 3, 2014 at 10:28 am
      You are the reason India is still a country filled with sludge. And one more thing if you don't know how to write in English properly write in hindi. You seem illiterate. So you mean the army can shoot, rape, torture, stage fake encounter against anyone who they think are mischievous? You Mahender is a part of the problem. You are so ignorant of the things that is happening in India. You are the person who think you are patriotic but you are not. You are the reason India is not a peaceful country. I WILL MAKE AFSPA GO TO THE GROUND ONE DAY. And ____ you dumbo.
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      1. K
        KrishnaBhagawan
        Nov 19, 2014 at 10:06 am
        point is army should not do internal security duties, period. Then there is no need for AFSPA.
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        1. H
          H.Balakrishnan
          Nov 19, 2014 at 4:03 am
          Sir, In the first instance a very basic question please. Why have the Army doing internal security duties, when it is the job of the Police . Will the politicians allow the Army to go the barracks ? All this talk of AFSPA is just a lot of noise. If Army must do internal security duties, which is NOT its job, AFSPA must stay. Period.
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          1. Jeremiah Duomai
            Dec 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm
            Army has nothing to gain by harring the innocent, but they do kill and/or rape the innocents, and that too in term of thousands. No one will really complain if army kills or harr only the insurgents. After all killing the insurgents is a fair fight. The reason civilians are so angry with AFSPA is because army rape or/and kill through fake encounters, yet they are not taken to task. AFSPA can be justified if army personnel are taken to task when innocent women are raped and civilians are shot through fake encounter to teach a lesson to the general local community. If the army will be given immunity for anything, then AFSPA is a draconian law. As of now it is a draconian law.
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