In the past, whenever anyone has suggested that there should be serious rethinking on the wisdom of retaining a black law like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in the world’s largest democracy, the official response has been one of shocked indigtion—as though even the hint of any suggestion to withdraw the black law amounted to some form of treason. And yet the fact remained that retaining a law like the AFSPA in any democratic country was nothing short of a clear statement that we had no use for any of the claptrap that went in the me democracy and that the AFSPA had to remain if people expected the armed forces to function efficiently and ensure the security of the country and its people. The armed forces were even making people believe that they could be expected to function properly only if the AFSPA was retained. This, of course, was very far from the truth. Thousands of people in India were familiar with how democracy functioned in the rest of the world quite satisfactorily even without laws like the AFSPA. In fact, the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act was a source of abiding shame to a huge number of proud Indians who were convinced that the black law did nothing to improve the image of India as a responsible democracy. Why on earth did the armed forces need a special law to deal with their own people even in peace time? If anything, the AFSPA gave the armed forces the powers to shoot down and kill their own countrymen. Which civilized democracy in the world gave such sweeping powers to its armed forces to shoot down or kill citizens on mere suspicion of anti-tiol activities? All civilized democracies give their armed forces powers to deal with treasoble activities whether perpetrated by aliens or their own citizens. And this power, rarely used, has been deemed adequate by all responsible democracies to deal with abnormal situations.
The interesting part of the AFSPA has been that despite the government’s seeming intolerance of any opposition to the black law, there have been people within the government who have been conscious of the Draconian ture of the AFSPA. Quite obviously, there have been sensitive and right-thinking people within the government who have been looking for ways to withdraw the AFSPA without indulging in any song and dance about it and while maintaining the general impression that the government does not intend to do anything to get rid of this black law. The Assam government now says that with the improvement of the overall law- and-order situation, it is examining the feasibility of a phase-wise withdrawal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, and that this was the reason why the term of the Act was recently extended by only three months instead of the regular practice of six months’ extension. To a lot of people, the very fact that the AFSPA is being considered for eventual withdrawal in a phase-wise manner is good news that seeks to undo the long-standing violation of democratic norms in our country. One only hopes that the government will also find ways to withdraw the black law from all the States of the Indian Union where it has been in force. It is a law that does singular disgrace to all democratic ideals and must be withdrawn from any country even pretending to be democratic in structure and functioning.