Ending human rights abuses

AFSPA is not the only draconian law which results in HR abuses
After maintaining a meaningful silence for quite some time, chief minister Omar Abdullah has again raised his voice against the draconian Armed Forces (Special) Powers Act (AFSPA) which arms the security forces with blanket powers and promotes the culture of impunity. Speaking at a function in Srinagar on Thursday Omar while advocating the revocation of AFSPA from "some areas of the state" admitted that he was treading on a difficult road. In the first place it is not a question of revoking this draconian law from some selected areas of Jammu and Kashmir which have been free from acts of militancy. Primarily, the very law not only violates the international covenants on human rights but is even violative of the Constitution of India, both in letter and spirit. Such a law which interalia empowers the forces to kill any one, destroy any building or resort to other such abuses merely on the basis of suspicion and at the same tame provides them impunity for their action should have no place in any civilized country, much less in a country which proclaims itself to be the world’s largest democracy. This law, which clearly infronges upon the fundamental rights of the citizens, must go lock, stock and barrel. Its review or partial removal from few selected areas is not going to make any difference. 

Then AFSPA is not the only law which results in grave human rights abuses ; there are several other laws enforced in the State which infringe upon the citizens democratic rights and result in grave human rights violations. Equally draconian is the State’s own Public Safety Act which has been blatantly misused by the successive regimes in the state to deprive the citizens of their freedom. Under this law hundreds of people have been detained without even providing them the grounds of detention. The record of the Omar-led coalition is the blackest in this regard, Apart from detaining the political leaders from time to time, the PSA has been used to detain thousands of youth, including minors, on the frivolous charges of stone-pelting. In several cases the court orders striking down the detention orders and for the release of those arrested are violated with impunity.

The Amnesty International in its reports has been urging the State government to repeal this draconian law. Even the working group on ensuring human rights under M.A. Ansari, present Vice President of India had in its report submitted in March 2007 suggested the repeal of both AFSPA and PSA as these violate the citizens basic rights. But so far the State government has not taken any steps to repeal this lawless law. On the contrary the grave misuse of this law to deprive the citizens of their freedom is going on unabated. Those detained under this law have not even been released. The State government has even failed to amend the Juvenile Justice Act which is inconsistent with the central law on the subject as also the United Nation Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which India is a signatory.. The State government has even been misusing the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to curb the genuine trade union activities by the government employees and other sections of the people. The State’s criminal procedure law, which is most retrogressive in nature, has been used to deprive the political leaders from pursuing their political activities, curbing their voice and even banning public meetings, processions and demonstrations of any kind. 

The present government has not only failed to put an end to the human rights abuses but has also not done any thing to probe such violations. While the National Human Rights Commission has no jurisdiction over J&K the State Human Rights Commission continues to be rudderless institution. It not only lacks independent character and teeth to punish those found guilty of HR abuses but has also been denied the necessary infrastructure to deal with the cases of human rights violations. The State government has even been found guilty of violating the directives and orders of this institution.