Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been getting all the attention during this general election. The controversial act has been making headlines as both the ruling as well as the opposition parties are trying to get the maximum mileage out of it.
The contentious act was recently in news when it was partially removed from Arunachal Pradesh, 32 years after it was imposed. The order to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) this week.
The Act, which gives sweeping powers to security forces, was partially withdrawn from three of the state’s nine districts, but would remain in force in the areas bordering Myanmar.
AFSPA is declared in areas where armed forces are required to operate in aid to civil authorities. However, for AFSPA to become valid, an area needs to be declared ‘disturbed’ either by the Central or the state government under Section 3 of the Act.
Arunachal Pradesh became a state on February 20, 1987, and since its inception, the controversial AFSPA – enacted by Parliament in 1958 – was applied to the certain parts of the state. In 2018, MHA had reduced AFPSA from 16 police stations areas bordering Assam to eight police stations, besides Tirap, Changlang and Longding districts, adjoining Myanmar.
This act was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir in September 1990 and since then the act has been making lives of the common man in the state difficult. Though much politics has been played over the act, it is the Congress which brought it into limelight yet again, especially in the context of Jammu and Kashmir.
Congress during the release of its election manifesto promised to review the act so that no human rights violations are reported or supposed to be covered up under the garb of AFSPA.
This was the reason that Congress leader GhulamNabi Azad defended his party’s promise to review the act, saying while the security forces should enjoy full powers to target militancy, it is also necessary to ensure that no human rights violation takes place.
It is immaterial whether Congress of any other political party starts a discourse on AFSPA. What is important is the impact the act is having on the lives of the people in Jammu and Kashmir.
AFSPA has been prevailing in Jammu and Kashmir since the past 25 years. There are people who do not understand what civil liberties mean as they have never been made to fight for getting these liberties.
These people are drawing a sadistic pleasure out of the lopsided discourse that takes place when act like AFSPA are discussed. One needs to understand and realize the impact this act has.
This act has been in place for a longer period of time and there is no harm in reviewing the act itself and working out some plans to limit its imposition to those areas where the situation is really bad.