Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Discard AFSPA

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is a tool of state abuse, oppression and discrimination ~ Human Rights Watch, one of the world’s foremost independent organizations dedicated to defending human rights

India should repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. It is a dated and colonial-era law that breaches contemporary international human rights standards.
UN Commissioner for Human Rights Navnetham Pillay

A middle-aged Kashmiri dealing in hand-me-down cars was fetched to a Special Operations Group [SOG] camp. SOG is equivalent to Schutzstaffel [SS], a semi-independent small police force but a very powerful one. They can pick you up, torture the daylights out of you and very conveniently dump you. They travel in run-down Maruti Gypsies and jump out of their vehicles in a menacing fashion.
No elected chief minister has been able to rein in this band of uncouth, brash gumshoes. Less than a week after 30% of Kashmiris came out to vote for the parliamentary elections, the SOG not having tasted blood for a long time, brutally interrogated and subsequently killed the innocent man they had fetched to their camp.

Ofcourse such rude interludes spoil the party for the ruling clique. Omar, the young chirpy chief minister of J&K is proving to be an able administrator and likes to give sweet interviews to hacks in his flower strewn garden. That his notorious cops are throwing dead people out of moving autos doesn’t exactly help matters. The inspector at the dreaded camp has been put under suspension and an investigation ordered. Does that not happen every time?
When have murdered men needed justice?

Part of the problem is the huge, almost crazy, powers that the law enforcing agencies yield in Kashmir. They can kill at will. That has to end at all costs. All talk of a Truth and Reconciliation Committee by Omar is nice. For such a thing to happen, he has to prioritize the removal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – the draconian law which gives full immunity to security forces in Kashmir. The cold, cruel act has been in force since 1990.

Under this law Kashmir has been dubbed disturbed, as in physically, mentally and emotionally – and the doctor is the state.
Now the doctor wears a dirty look and carries a gun and is authorised to – [hold your breath] -- fire upon people even if it causes death/arrest without a warrant with the use of necessary force anyone who is suspected/enter and search any home/detain anyone.

Not surprisingly soldiers have often been high-handed in Kashmir. They beat people up pretty often for little or no excuse and even show no mercy to the elderly. Occasionally, as with the poor car dealer, they feel like to kill. Under AFSPA troopers have legal immunity for their actions. The law says that there can be no prosecution, suit or any other legal proceeding against anyone acting under the aegis of AFSPA. So all talk of teaching the culprits a lesson is pure nonsense.

There is an urgent need to do away with this stupid law. We are not a disturbed people. Surely people who queue up in long lines to vote senators to the Indian parliament can’t be disturbed. It should be the first priority of all newly elected senators as also Omar Abdullah, the new Chief Minister to get the law abrogated. Omar especially has a historic opportunity to show that his administration will be different.

Most human rights organizations have called for repeal of the extreme law. Amnesty International recently renewed its appeal.
Let no more children be orphaned because of some silly, irrational piece of legislation.