Doublespeak on AFSPA


Ironically while chief minister Omar Abdullah has been seeking partial and phased removal of the draconian Armed Forces Powers Act from some of the areas, mostly those where it was non-operative, the head of his police organization, has not only vigorously defended this anti-democratic law but has also sought similar “ legal cover” for the monstrously expanded and notoriously oppressive and ruthless police force deployed for anti-militancy operations. In an interview to a local news agency in Srinagar Ashok Prasad, Director General of Police, ‘revealed’ that it was a misconception that the armed forces enjoy immunity under AFSPA.

So far the defence establishment was vigorously opposing the chief minister’s suggestion for partial removal of AFSPA, not to talk of the popular demand articulated by the human rights groups for scrapping of this lawless law which violates all canons of democracy and infringes on the fundamental rights of the citizens. Now even the State’s newly appointed police chief, a non-state cadre IPS officer selected by the Union home ministry, too has raised his voice against any move even to partially remove this draconian law from certain areas. It is a case of head of the government proposing and head of his police force disposing. Either it is a case of doublespeak to befool the people or the CM and DGP are functioning at cross-purposes. 

The police chief’s defence of the draconian law betrays a mindset that lacks trust in the people and faith in democratic norms and practices. Ashok Prasad even went to dub the human rights groups and activists, demanding the revocation of this law as “ vested interests.” He is perhaps not aware of the fact that even the working group constituted by the Prime Minister on “Ensuring human rights “ headed by none other that the present Vice President of India, M.A.Ansari, had in its report submitted in March 2007 recommended revocation of AFSPA and State Public Safety Act which, it pointed out, infringe on the basic rights of the citizens.

The human rights groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been asserting that the AFSPA has facilitated grave human rights abuses, including extrajudicial execution, “disappearance”, rape and torture by bestowing sweeping powers for the armed forces where this law is operative. The law “violates non-derogable provisions of international human rights law, including the right to life, the right to remedy and the rights to be free from arbitrary deprivation of liberty and from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (ill-treatment) as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights”. The State police chief’s assertion that AFSPA does not provide immunity to the forces is as ridiculous as it is ludicrous. This draconian law empowers the security forces to arrest and enter property without warrant and gives the security forces powers to shoot to kill in circumstances where members of the security forces are not at imminent risk.

“It facilitates impunity because no person can start legal action against any members of the security forces for anything done under the Act, or purported to be done under the Act, without permission of the Central Government” Section 4 of the AFSPA empowers officers, both commissioned and non-commissioned) in a disturbed area to “ fire upon or otherwise use force, even to the causing of death, not only in cases of self-defence, but against any person contravening laws or orders prohibiting the assembly of five or more persons”, The State police has earned notoriety for firing upon the protesters demonstrating against the violation of human rights as happened in 2010 when over 120 youth including minors were killed. Though the State police did not enjoy immunity still not in a single case any of the cops was made accountable for such dastardly acts. How the force will behave after getting legal cover, provided under AFSPA, can very well be imagined.

Though the chief minister of late has been talking of phased-wise removal of AFSPA from some selected areas, not as a matter of concern for human rights abuses or due to the draconian nature of the law but as an electoral slogan, his alliance partner, Congress is vehemently opposing this demand. Intriguingly even his own police chief has now come out not only in defending AFSPA but also demanding similar “ legal cover” for the force under his command. National Conference, and the government headed by it, are known for such doublespeak and political chicanery.