Repeal the Armed Forces(Special Powers) Act,1958
As in the past once again on equinox, 21st September 2013 the world will observe the international day of peace. People who work for peace will be honoured, some of them will be recommended for the Nobel Peace Prize. But very few of those who commemorate it will recall that for the last 55 years the more anti-democratic Armed Forces Special Powers Act 1958 (AFSPA) has been in force in the Northeast.
At its introduction in the Lok Sabha, Mr. Mohanty an MP from Orissa objected even to the Bill on AFSPA being discussed because he considered it unconstitutional. The then Home Minister Mr. G. B. Pant assured him that it was a temporary measure and that it would be repealed as soon as the Naga problem was solved. The Parliament voted it into a law on 22nd May 1958 and the President signed it into an Act six months later. It was applied at first to the Naga inhabited districts that became Nagaland in 1963, was later extended to other areas in the Northeast and then to Jammu and Kashmir. In 1958 the Naga outfit was the only militant group in the Northeast. Today 55 years later one has lost count of their number. Probably they are more than 50. Manipur had two militant groups when it was extended to it in 1980. Today that State alone has more than ten times that number. By keeping it in force, the Government of India and State Governments refuse to recognize that AFSPA has not achieved its purpose. A senior Minister even stated on 6th February 2013 that the Government cannot get a consensus on its repeal or amendment because both the retired and present army generals are against even making it more humane leave alone repealing it. Many Commissions have come out clearly against AFSPA. But the Government has ignored these recommendations from official commissions. The Supreme Court has before it a public interest litigation on 1,528 cases of alleged fake encounter deaths only in Manipur in Northeast India. In February 2013 The SC asked the Justice Santosh Hegde Commission to inquire into six of the cases it chose at random. The Commission has concluded that all six were fake encounters. A retired official of the Intelligence Bureau states that according to IB records there were 6,023 cases of deaths in fake encounters in Assam alone 2001-2012, 8,923 in Manipur1991-2012 and 2,803 in Mizoram 2,803 in a decade. That comes to more than 1,000 cases per year in these three States alone. There are many more in the remaining States of the Northeast and in Jammu and Kashmir. There have been more cases of rape by the armed forces. However, but for a few exceptions of public fury or when the security persons were caught in the act by the public, no paramilitary or army person has been prosecuted for destruction of property or murder or rape.
AFSPA is an anti-democratic act. It enables a junior commissioned officer to arrest anyone without a warrant on mere suspicion that the person was planning a terrorist act. It empowers the security forces to “fire upon or otherwise use force even to the causing of death” without the permission of the civilian government. According to Section 6, no criminal prosecution can be initiated against the security persons who take action under this Act. Can a democratic country tolerate such an Act particularly since the security situation in most areas where the Act is in place has improved enormously? A result of AFSPA is a trust deficit.
Peace requires not such draconian anti-human rights acts but confidence building measures. What better measure than repeal of this anti-human act?
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