- Recently centre has announced that it revoked the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) from Meghalaya .In Arunachal Pradesh, the impact of AFSPA was reduced to eight police stations
- Right now AFSPA is effective in the whole of Nagaland, Assam, Manipur (excluding seven assembly constituencies of Imphal) and parts of Arunachal Pradesh
Why is there the need to repeal AFSPA:-
- Human rights groups are opposing it as being aggressive. Manipur’s Irom Sharmila has been one if its staunchest opponents, going on a hunger strike.
- Its scrapping has been recommended by various committees headed by Jeevan Reddy and Santosh Hegde . Its core impunity has been frowned upon by the Supreme Court.
- The law results in the armed forces of the state carrying out atrocities against citizens and producing more alienation and inspiration for violence than is quelled by use of the law.
- The army need to return to its primary task on the disputed borders, especially when the Line of Actual Control too has become active
- State law and order machinery, comprising the state police and central paramilitary forces, need time to assume responsibility. With the army’s permanent presence in the state, the paramilitary forces, especially the CRPF in large numbers, has been pushed to the shadows, with little certainty that it will be able to perform under crisis or a war-situation.
- Draconian provisions:-
- AFSPA provides India’s Armed Forces and operational adjuncts such as Assam Rifles and Rashtriya Rifles both immunity and impunity in areas that the Act is enforced, to kill at will anyone even on the merest suspicion of breaching law and order, of being a rebel sympathizer.
- It gives the army powers to search premises and make arrests without warrants, to use force even to the extent of causing death.
- Abuse of power:-
- AFSPA derivatives have over the decades led to gross abuse of power in Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, and elsewhere, especially with non-combatants written off as collateral damage in the greater interest of the nation.
- AFSPA has never stopped rebellion. It has instead bred resentment against India by protecting prejudices and atrocities. There have been instances where army was accused of rapes, fake encounters in the AFSPA enforced regions.
The act is necessary in the present circumstances because:-
- Terrorism would never have been rooted out in Punjab or Mizoram without the AFSPA and without the tough measures that were taken by the security forces operating under the protection of the Act.
- The induction of the army becomes imperative to battle the terrorists and maintain the territorial integrity of the country.
- Lifting of AFSPA from urban areas/large towns in J&K will result in terrorists seeking shelter in such areas and rebuilding their bases, as has been witnessed in Manipur’s capital Imphal post-2004.
- Administrative support including convoys carrying army personnel and stores moving to the Line of control pass through urban areas in the hinterland and are vulnerable to terrorist attacks. Hence AFSPA cannot be applied in pockets of J&K along the Line of control while withdrawing the act from the remaining areas.
- State and non state actors role:-
- While there may be a comparative decline in terrorist violence, there is no change in the Pakistani ideology and will to support proxy war in J&K. The infrastructure to support such a proxy is all intact and being regularly upgraded.
- Between 35 and 42 training camps are active in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
- Moreover, counter-terrorist operations by the army are not restricted to the Line of Control but cover the entire state.
- The mere fact that the provisions of AFSPA have to be invoked in a particular area ex facieestablishes that handling the law and order situation had gone beyond the control of the state government.:-
- The army personnel operating in those circumstances need to enjoy at least similar powers as the police force .So, just as Section 45 of the Criminal procedure code disallows arrest of public servants and just as Section 197 provides impunity against prosecution, Section 7 of the AFSPA gives similar protection to the army personnel.
- Apex court said that the conferring of powers vide Section 4 of AFSPA could not be held arbitrary or violative of Article 14, 19 or 21 of the Constitution. In fact, having considered the role and circumstances under which the armed forces have to operate, the Supreme Court extended the scope of powers vested vide 4 and 6 of AFSPA so as to include by implication, the power to interrogate the person arrested.
- The revocation of AFSPA from any area needs a concerted view of all organs of the state and Centre. A suggested way is to convert these areas into police administered areas/police districts as was done for Srinagar initially without revoking AFSPA.
- Subsequently, as the situation improves, while evolving the revocation, an exit strategy needs to be worked out for gradual withdrawal of armed forces from the specified area leading to a smooth transition.
- India has to balance the need for a stringent law with the basic principles of ensuring human dignity and human rights.
- Individual freedom has to be balanced with the freedom of other individuals and with reasonable demands of the community and the general public. It is the duty of the state to harmonise the rights of the individual with the requirements of the community
- Set up dedicated trial courts/ tribunals to hear cases associated with serious AFSPA violations and include civil society and political members in such courts/ tribunals etc