Diluting AFSPA Omar proposes, sanity disposes
The recent marathon all-party meeting chaired by the Prime Minister ended without reaching any consensus on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). It is to be noted that Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had been campaigning for withdrawing AFSPA from parts of his state. But it is the political inexperience of the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah who literally failed to handle the crisis in the Valley, which led to the ongoing turmoil. This also led to encouraging the anti-national elements, who are calling the shots now. Also the Centre is responsible for the Kashmir violence. For that, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s ambitious but pathetically executed pursuit of peace is at least in part to blame. Efforts to engage secessionists in dialogue, promises of phased demilitarisation, and a final peace deal with Pakistan itself: each of these enterprises ended in impasse. Each failure engendered cynicism and bitterness, which in turn legitimised Islamist hawks who contended from the start that peace was a miasma. Now his government’s considering proposal to dilute or remove AFSPA proves that the Centre is bowing down before separatists, who are bent on completing one-point agenda of Pakistan through AFSPA’s removal. If the Centre dilutes or partially removes AFSPA, it will mean insulting and demoralising the Army.
In this backdrop, it is necessary to know what the AFSPA is. The AFSPA was promulgated to combat insurgency in the North-East more than half a century ago. Later, when insurgency surfaced in J&K, its application was extended to that state too. Causes of insurgency in the North-East lay in complex and intractable politico-socio-economic areas, which led to the feeling of alienation among the people of the region. The underlying causes for the insurgency in J&K are altogether of a different genre. When appropriate measures are not taken in time in a comprehensive and vigorous manner, disenchantment and disaffection can spread among most sections of society. Where terrain favours insurgency and outside help is at hand, the problem can take a virulent form, making the task of the security forces all the more difficult. Therefore, abrogating the AFSPA or any step for dilution of AFSPA by removing some of its key provisions in an attempt to make it “humane” could place the security forces at a great disadvantage in their fight against a vicious insurgency. Any watering-down of the Act will result in de-motivating the troops. Violent nature of counter-insurgency operations, the Army’s own casualties and its action against those found violating human rights should give some comfort to the votaries of human rights, who target only the Army. The nation should be aware of the sacrifices made by our troops daily to combat this scourge. Altering the basic structure of the AFSPA in an effort to make it “humane” will place the troops in a most unenviable position and will give fillip to get terrorism further rooted in the state. AFSPA is invoked in states where the state government and civil administration fail and the Army is needed to be called in to exercise maximum force to retain the integrity of the nation. The question arises: What is more draconian? Politicians and civil servants, who behave like the British Raj, or AFSPA, which is invoked when the nation’s existence is in danger?
The abject truth is, our powers-that-be are only interested in keeping the problems related to J&K alive and not solve them, in tune with axiom of Niccolo Machiavelli, who was an Italian philosopher/writer, and is considered one of the main founders of modern political science, that it is much more profitable for a politician to keep a problem burning instead of resolving it. Separatists had made their intention clear with vandalism at Hazrat Bal Dargah and raising anti-India protests and waving of Pakistan flags at Lal Chowk in Srinagar on Eid. They were fulfilling Pakistan’s agenda. The question arises whether Abdullah fulfilled his constitutional duty by permitting a procession on Eid or helped in adding fuel to fire. Instead of focussing on reducing trust-deficit and governance-deficit, Omar is advocating for effort to tamper with the Act, which will be suicidal and should not be tolerated. What’s more, he is demanding autonomy to Jammu & Kashmir, which will weaken structure of federal structure. Any religious community has right to express its sentiments but the government should guard against those elements who try to disturb peace on one or other pretext. The administration needs to be more careful in isolating such elements and they should be dealt with sternly. But what is most perturbing is that the Army is being made the scapegoat and the soldier is fully aware of this treachery being inflicted on him. This is certainly not a good indication. God help this country the day the soldier is pushed beyond the thin red line of reason!