Libertatem Magazine

Armed Forces Special Power Act: In the eyes of a Student

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[mks_dropcap style=”letter” size=”52″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#dd3333″]A[/mks_dropcap]FSPA, Armed Forces Special Power Act or ‘Right to Kill’ act. This act gives the complete autonomy to the soldiers to kill someone just on the basis of suspicion. Even after more than 65 years of independence, India has failed to germinate the seed of providing the basic fundamental rights such as right to life to the entire citizen of the country.

The Armed Forced Special Power Act is an act which has empowered armed and paramilitary forces to deal effectively in disturbed areas. “Disturbed areas” means an area which is declared to be a disturbed area for the time being by the Governor of that State or by the Central Government. This act provides special legal security in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and J & K.

The Armed Forces Special Power Ordinance was promulgated by the British to suppress the Quit India Movement and to put the eminent leaders behind the bars. In August 1947 both India and Pakistan taste the flavor of freedom after the struggle of 200 years. But few years after the independence, Jawahar Lal Nehru faced its first insurgency in Naga district in Assam state. In 1954, the Nagas began an insurgency for their independence and Indian government responded to it by sending the thousands of military forces to crush the rebellion. And this added fuel to the fire which led to the start of an intense cycle of violence. To further stop the insurgency, the government brought the Armed Forces Special Power Act in 1958.

There is no shame in saying that till now India is not able to control the infiltration of its neighbouring countries. Every day we see that number of militants and terrorists from China and Pakistan come in the territory of India. The sole purpose of these persons is to hamper the peace and harmony of the state. These people try to influence people to go against the government of India or set up training camp for the purpose of teaching the students the methods of terrorism. They teach the children how to launch attacks ranging to suicide bombing practice in the field of terrorism.

Therefore to avoid these kinds of disturbances in the country, the government is not ready to repeal AFSPA, as this act will provide the complete independence to army militants in their working. So if a soldier found any person indulging himself in an act which is against the nation interest, hampering the peace and integrity of the country, he has all the right to take him into the custody without any warrant.

But instead these special rights are being misused by the military men. Since the incorporation of this act, this act has received a lot of criticism from various national as well as international human rights organizations. This act was actually made to control terrorism and maintain peace in the country but now this act has taken another shape. This act has allowed the ‘gunda raaj’ of Indian Army. This act gives full power to the armed forces to kill and arrest anyone just on the basis of suspicion. So the number of cases of fake encounters has increased drastically in these areas. The act also provides the power to military men to enter and search any premise without any warrant. This act even restricts more than five persons to assemble in a group. This act also protects the soldiers from the legal consequences this means that they kill someone and can’t be prosecuted for their wrongful act. It is upto the discretion of the government to declare a particular area ‘disturbed’ which can’t be challenged in the court of law.

The essence of human rights is that human life and dignity must not be compromised and that certain acts, whether carried out by State or non-State players are never being justified no matter what may be the end. AFSPA has failed to curb the insurgency problems in the Northern East States. In 1980 there were only four armed opposition groups in Manipur nut now this number has reached to twelve. When AFSPA was formed in 1958 there were no adequate laws to deal with terrorism and insurgent groups but now we have various laws to deal with the insurgent groups and their unlawful activities like Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), 2002, Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, 1985 and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 as amended in 2008.

In 2004, the Central government appointed a five member committee headed by Justice B. P. Jeevan Reddy to review the provisions of act in north eastern states. The committee submitted its report in 2005 which giving following recommendations:

  • AFSPA should be repealed and in place of it appropriate provision should be added to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act regarding specifying power of Armed and paramilitary forces.
  • Grievance cell should be set up in every district where the armed forces are deployed.

The same recommendation to repeal AFSPA was also made by United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in February 2007.

The Indian Military has ignored all these recommendation by saying that this act is necessary to maintain peace and harmony in such disputed area and overriding the powers mentioned in AFSPA will lead to internal disputes as well as external disputes. It is being argued by Lt General Arvind Sharma that if AFSPA is repealed then army will not be able to work in insurgency situations.

However this doesn’t mean that government has the right to take away the Fundamental Right of Right to life of citizen of disputed area in an intentional or unlawful way. It doesn’t mean that state can violate the human rights of any individual guaranteed under by the constitution of India. But by introducing AFSPA, the government has violated fundamental rights of the people of eight states. Instead of maintaining peace in the states this has created conflicts in these states by arbitrary killing, cruelty, inhuman and degraded treatment of the armed forces.

I am not in favor of totally repealing this act because that will lead to various problems like increase in the terror and insurgency attacks. If this act is removed, the army will lose its control over the states and because of which infiltration from Pakistan and China will going to rise. So total repealment in not the solution instead of that the government may reduce the powers of military men mentioned in this act. Instead of killing someone just on the basis of suspicion, they can arrest him and investigate against him. Legal proceeding should be done if a soldier commits any fake encounter. If government is declaring a particular area as ‘disturbed’ then the courts must have a say on that. A boundary should be made to restrict the soldiers because complete independence had led to military rule in these states. A boundary that will refrain the soldiers from committing any crime.

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