ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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AFSPA and Clash of Realities in Kashmir

The Manik Sarkar government’s decision to revoke the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Tripura was hailed in public and intellectual circles. The fallout, as expected, was the revival of the demand for revoking the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir, J&K) Special Powers Act. It is believed that the controversial law in Tripura was revoked because of decrease in militancy-related incidents and it is expected that this revocation could pave the way for Mufti Mohamad Sayeed-led Peoples Democratic Party–Bharatiya Janata Party coalition government in J&K to repeal the law either fully or partially, at least from the less vulnerable areas. The fact remains that voices from all corners, whether separatist or mainstream, are against AFSPA’s continuation in the trouble-torn state. Meanwhile, the defence minister has added fuel to fire by stating that the law is necessary for the army to operate in the state. While there is a deficit of trust between the people and the security agencies, despite much being done to bridge the army–civilian gap, most people believe that the law needs to be scrapped, at least partially. The army should take that initiative, given the decrease in insurgency. It is also hoped that such a move should find space in the Prime Minister’s promise of delivering peace and prosperity in J&K.

Having said this, the army’s position against repealing AFSPA in the state is based on some bitter realities. If we do need the soldier in the state, how does one expect him to operate without the powers of even a police constable? AFSPA does not make anyone immune from trials. Also if soldiers guilty of human rights violations are exonerated, the fault lies in the processes. The army needs legal cover but civilians need respite from the violence.

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