AFSPA is not sacrosanct

Human rights abuse cannot be defended in the name of fighting insurgency or self-defence It is no secret that in the last two and a half decades, security personnel have misused their powers by picking up civilians, killing them in stage managed encounters and tried to pass them off as armed insurgents,

Defence minister Manohar Parrikar’s remarks that the civil administration decides to use the army “for protection and killing an insurgency network”, the army should be allowed to control it by “firing straight” are a chilling admission that the State willfully patronizes gross violation of human rights that Army and other armed forces are accused of in Kashmir and other conflict regions of the country. It doesn’t get levelled by adding the words that “I will be very happy if we don’t use the army anywhere in the country, other than disaster management”. The remarks are in striking contrast to the recent supreme court ruling on stage managed encounters and the prolonged use of Armed Forces Special Powers Act. In one sweep, Parrikar has given legitimacy to all actions of the armed forces in conflict areas without a question, irrespective of the nature and merit of each case. His contention is that security personnel can kill in self defence and this remark itself makes no distinction between armed insurgents and unarmed innocent civilians. The remarks have come in the wake of over 50 killings of civilians during street protests and the horrifying reports of over 150 people, mostly children and teenagers blinded by pellets and a far higher number maimed by bullets in Kashmir. Atleast, 3,000 people have been injured and are receiving treatment in various hospitals of the Valley. The official plea in defence of such a shocking scale of brutality is that the mobs in Kashmir are uncontrollable and extremely violent, armed with stones, sharp edged marble pieces and petrol bombs. While this may be a reality in some cases, it is a far too generalized picture of the civilians participating in street protests. Reports have revealed that in many cases the security personnel opened unprovoked firing on peaceful protestors and in some cases entered homes, dragged out people and shot at them.

It is no secret that in the last two and a half decades, security personnel have misused their powers by picking up civilians, killing them in stage managed encounters and tried to pass them off as armed insurgents, both in Kashmir and the north-east. The country’s laws do not legitimize custodial killings and custodial disappearances, which have been well documented, whether the victim in question is connected to militancy or an innocent scapegoat. The defence minister may need to introspect on how custodial deaths, custodial disappearances or stage managed encounters in which innocents are picked up for the benefit of security personnel winning awards and promotions constitute self defence that he has invoked in advocacy of AFSPA and as a cover up for the atrocities often committed by some armed personnel.

AFSPA is a misguided weapon, whose continuance is whipping up anger owing to the pattern of impunity that it encourages even in the face of increasing graph of human rights violations at the hands of security forces. It has been defended for long in the name of militancy, irrespective of the drastic decline in figures of insurgency.

Statistics and researches have shown no co-relation between AFSPA and gains in counter insurgency operations. More than five decades of AFSPA in the north-east have only ended up increasing the numbers of militants. In the Jammu and Kashmir case, the two and a half decades of AFSPA first coincided with a decline in number of militants and in the last three years a steady but slow increase. AFSPA has not successfully diminished militancy anywhere because political solutions cannot be managed for long with military options. Parrikar is right in wishing for a situation where there would be no need for the army to combat civilian population. That reality cannot be achieved by military might and by treating armed forces and AFSPA like a holy cow but through political intervention. As part of the government, he must advocate for that.

News Updated at : Tuesday, August 2, 2016