AFSPA can only be withdrawn if the Army is never deployed for internal security. Everything else is sophistry
From Jammu & Kashmir to Manipur and beyond, the campaign launched by perhaps well-meaning civil society and human rights groups for the dilution and/or withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Protection Act (AFSPA) is inherently flawed. Unless one is a subscriber to state-contraction theorists’ pitch which would have us Balkanised and which sees secession as a valid demand of separatists which would prove beneficial for the mother country too, as it were, there is no case for the Indian Armed Forces not being afforded the necessary protections required for operations in hostile environments which AFSPA provides. If, however, as an overwhelmingly majority of, if not all, right-thinking Indians believe, nothing trumps the inviolability of the nation-state including but not limited to the activities of those who have launched an armed insurgency and actively use terrorism as a tactic to achieve their political/religious ends, then there is no revisiting AFSPA whether in terms of diluting some its provisions or withdrawing it as a legal protection in internal war theatres. At least, that is, if we want the Indian Army to be deployed to confront and control internal strife situations. There is no problem, of course, if the political leadership, which is and must always remain supreme in our democratic structure, wishes to withdraw the Army from areas where they feel the balance of peace can be maintained by the local police and para-military organisations. By all means, withdraw AFSPA from those areas but that must be co-terminus with withdrawal of the Armed Forces from that area, as has been done in some districts of Kashmir, Manipur and the North-East.
The logic of the petition preferred before the Supreme Court of India by over 300 Indian Army personnel challenging the registration of FIRs against them for decisions taken during operations in areas of Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir where is AFSPA is in force is irrefutable. The apex court would do well to reflect, when it hears the petition on September 4, on the underlying principle which most democratic, realistic and aware-of-context citizens of India can and should support, which is this — in a war, regardless of whom it is against, there is no place for parity. There are, to put it in Mickey Mouse terms, the good guys and the bad guys. Period. Of course, that does not mean that brutality of any kind against those defined as the enemy whether in a combat role or in an ancillary capacity ought to or is countenanced by the Indian Army.
Our Army is patently not and never will be an Indic version of an ‘Allah’s Army’ or ‘People’s Liberation’ kind of outfit and thank the gods that be for it. As a truly secular, inclusive and humane institution which knows that brutality inflicted upon innocents also brutalises those committing the atrocities and is against every notion of decency, fair play and humanity that we as a nation swear by, sometimes in the face of intolerable propaganda, it has one of the most robust and fair judicial mechanisms in place which actively seeks out and punishes transgressors. And these decisions, always remember, are open to judicial review as indeed they should be. That’s where we should ensure the matter rests.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer