Like all his predecessors, our present Army chief General Bipin Rawat is totally opposed to any rethink on or dilution of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) that gives his troops extraordiry powers to shoot or detain suspects in insurgency-hit areas. However, it is only tural that those affected by the provisions of the AFSPA—the inhabitants of all those areas of the Northeast and of Jammu & Kashmir where the AFSPA is applicable—should be both disturbed and insulted by a perverse law applicable only to some people in India. In many other democracies of the world as well there are insurgency-prone regions. But one cannot conceive of such countries having a special law only for certain regions to the exclusion of others. Such laws negate democracy because they negate the basic principles of human rights. One must have convincing answers to all queries about why the Northeast or Jammu & Kashmir have been singled out for the application of the AFSPA. This question acquires special significance now in the context of no less a person than the President of India having said on Monday that the security scerio in the Northeast is much better now. This is something anyone can see and endorse. If that is the assessment of the President of India, what justification can one have for retaining a Draconian law for just two parts of the country to the exclusion of others? Gen. Rawat has said that even though the AFSPA allowed certain kinds of “strong” action, the Army was deeply concerned about the possibility of collateral damage and ensured that its operations did not inconvenience the local population. The AFSPA is not in the least concerned about convenience or inconvenience. It is concerned about taking lives. Last Saturday, troops fired on stone-throwers in Kashmir and killed two of them. The AFSPA has no compunctions about equating stones in the hands of people with bullets in the guns of troops. How fair can such an equation be?
Time to Get Rid of AFSPA