BY- Hardi Himanshu Goradia
NOTE: – By expressing my views about the following topic, neither am I commenting against the Government nor the provisions enacted by the Legislature. The content posted is purely for the public views and any rash comments would not be appreciated.
Even before I begin with this rather heated topic, I’d like to clearly state that over here by presenting the following post to the audience, I’m under no circumstances being answerable to any Government entity or persona as a whole. I’m by means of the post, which is to follow, trying to generate awareness about such practices which are getting highly prevalent in modern day India. My intention here is not at all to blame the Legislature or the respected Indian Army, which puts across its heart and soul to serve us and make India a better country. Over here I’m to tell about that strata of the medical fraternity who take patients as their business, my intention here is only to express my views duly and to exercise my power to raise my voice against the issues that bother me.
The Iron Lady of the largest democracy of the world, Irom Chanu Sharmila finally ends her more than 500 weeks which is 11 years of hunger strike, against a protest for repealing AFSPA. No wonder it has been declared to be the world’s longest hunger strike till date. She had pledged not to look in the mirror, not to comb her hair, nor eat, drink or meet her mother unless the Act stands repealed. She was jailed a number of time thereto, and the Government made her compulsorily intake food and water by way of nasogastric incubation to eep her alive while in arrest.
Her giving up on her bequest does not tend to surprise me, what does surprise me is the never ending politics that the region of seven sisters that is the North-Eastern region of India, the contiguous States of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura is facing since time immemorial. Let’s face it, how many of us even knew about the names of these seven States if asked impromptu? I bet more than 80% cannot and would not be able to name more than four of the Seven Sister States.
Also it is a state of terrible disgrace that more than 80% of us, the concerned citizens do not know about AFSPA. The only way concern is shown is through the rising grocery prices, teamed up with concerns about team India winning the championship trophy and the like. I have been on a quest to change the ongoing scenario and to support the same, views about the above mentioned topic will be the expressed herewith.
Post-independence, India has witnessed many secessionist movements and has long suffered from extremist attacks. The very notion of secessionism disturbs the territorial integrity and unity of a country. In order to curb the secessionist activities of the militants, the Indian government under Nehru in 1958 implemented the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
AFSPA is an acronym for ARMED FORCES SPECIAL POWERS ACT, 1958. The said Act had been bought into force and enacted in the year 1958. It was first implemented in the North-Eastern Region and then to Punjab and finally to Jammu and Kashmir. In the case of Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1958 (Manipur and Assam), the Government used Article 355 of the Constitution to confer powers on the Governors of the States. The Act is applicable only after an area has been declared, “Disturbed”. The power to declare a territory,“Disturbed” initially lay with the States, but this power was passed to the Centre in 1972. Section 3 of AFSPA (in J&K), says that an area can be declared disturbed if it is the, “Opinion of the Governor of the state or the central government which makes the use of armed forces in aid of the civil power necessary”. Under the provisions of the Act, the “Armed Forces” may shoot to kill or destroy a building on mere suspicion. A non-commissioned officer or any one of equivalent rank and above may use force based on opinion and suspicion, to arrest without warrant, or to kill. He can fire at anyone carrying anything that may be used as a weapon, with only, “Such due warning as he may consider necessary”. Once AFSPA is implemented, “No prosecution… shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the central government, in respect of anything done or purported to be done” under this Act.
The Supreme Court found the Act constitutionally valid. However the draconian powers the Act gives to the armed forces, particularly Section 4 which allows a soldier to shoot at sight under certain circumstances, can result in abomination, if misused. The basis for giving life to this otherwise dormant enactment is the notification by the Home Ministry declaring an area “Disturbed.” Failing to maintain law and order with vast resources such as the para-military and the police it has under its command, the MoH declares an area disturbed and hands over the situation to the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces, trained to protect the borders, are deployed to restore normalcy. There can be no two opinions that rape and murder committed by soldiers must be dealt with firmly. The crux of the problem is the prolonged deployment of the army in internal security duties in a particular area. The Government must first withdraw the notification declaring an area disturbed and let the soldiers return to the barracks. Overwhelming presence of insurgents causes grave insecurity to the common people. It creates a situation where people have to live under constant fear and anxiety. Frequent declaration of bandh, forcible extortion and shelter by militants are sources of insecurity to the people. On the other hand, widespread protest by people against the Act clearly shows their discontent towards it. Adversaries of the Act argue that the increased militarization of the area creates a detrimental atmosphere that ends up creating people’s protests against the State. On the other hand, the protagonists of the Act believe that extraordinary conditions demand extraordinary measures. According to them, there is no denying the fact that AFSPA gives special powers to the security forces but it, also, has to be understood that there’s no other simple way to fight the insurgents. When the enemy penetrates within the civilian population it is he who has curbed the liberty of the people and not the security forces who are, in fact, trying to ensure that the right to life and dignity of the civilian population is not compromised by. AFSPA is the need of the hour.
In the AFSPA controlled areas, human rights are being violated both by state and non- state actors. Counter- terrorism operations undertaken in good-faith, at times, lead to collateral damage. Proposals have been made to been made to amend section 4 which gives Army powers to search premises and make arrests without warrants, use force, even to extent of causing death, destroy arms dumps, hideouts and to stop, search and seize any vehicles.
The controversial AFSPA has been extended by six months in entire Assam and the 20km-wide belt in Meghalaya bordering the state with the Centre declaring that the “disturbed area” status, which has been in force since 1990, will continue. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry said the law and order situation in Assam has continued to be a matter of concern due to the violent incidents by underground outfits and during January-Septembe r 2016, different militant groups were involved in 66 incidents of violence in Assam, which resulted in killing of 29 people.
Emerging Status: –
The AFSPA debate has been a long sparring bout conducted in the latter half of 2011. The main boxing bout is still to be fought. Shadow boxing matches were carried out between political parties at the state level (NC, PDP and Congress); at the National level (Cong, NC and BJP); the J&K Government and State Administration against the Army within the state; the Chief Minister of J&K discussed the issue with the Army Chief, the National Security Advisor, the Home Minister, the Raksha Mantri and the Prime Minister. The media, both print and electronic, had a field day bringing defence analysts, political luminaries, and experts on Kashmir, separatist leaders face to face for debates with no possible conclusion. The Lokpal Bill and related issues overtook the prolonged AFSPA debate and buried it under the welcome snowfall in Kashmir.
Nevertheless, the least we could conclude is to each his/her own, and these opinions thus expressed do not necessarily mean to harm the image, reputation or otherwise of the nation or the Defence, without whose help, we would never be able to breathe peacefully.
I’d like to thank Indian Defence Review.