An instrument for peace or a weapon of abuse?

An instrument of peace or weapon of abuse?

How the AFSPA turned out in the tumultuous areas of the country

Introduction

The Indian state(now union territories) of Jammu and Kashmir is historically regarded as a near replica of what heaven would look like if on earth. Many bygone rulers of the world’s largest empires have poured praises for that part of the Indian subcontinent, perfectly nestled between the snowy mountains of the Himalayas and the bountiful forest valleys underneath. This area has been one that is widely known as a beautiful piece of earth.

Similarly, one of the most underrated parts of the nation are the seven states that comprise the north-eastern section of the country. The states of Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya are naturally blessed with the foothills of the Himalayas and deep valleys making up the geography of the states.

But, it hasn’t all been lovely and cheerful for that region in recent history. With the partition of India and Pakistan came the highly controversial territorial argument of this northern piece of land in the subcontinent. With allegedly three nations fighting and arguing for territorial control of that state. Currently nearly half of it is allegedly illegally controlled by Pakistan and the rest by the Indian government. Both lands are strictly guarded and militarized.

With growing unrest and alerts of foreign aggression on the state, the Indian government had introduced the very controversial Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act(AFSPA).

Basics of the act

Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), 1958 is an act of the Parliament of India that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces the power to maintain public order in “disturbed areas”. According to The Disturbed Areas (Special Courts) Act, 1976 once declared ‘disturbed’, the area has to maintain status quo for a minimum of 3 months. One such Act passed on 11 September 1958 was applicable to the Naga Hills, then part of Assam. In the following decades it spread, one by one, to the other Seven Sister States in India’s northeast (at present, it is in force in the States of Assam, Nagaland, Manipur {excluding Imphal Municipal Council Area}, Changlang, Longding and Tirap districts of Arunachal Pradesh, and areas falling within the jurisdiction of the eight police stations of districts in Arunachal Pradesh bordering the State of Assam). Another one passed in 1983 and applicable to Punjab and Chandigarh was withdrawn in 1997, roughly 14 years after it came to force. An Act passed in 1990 was applied to Jammu and Kashmir and has been in force since.

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In basic terms, AFSPA enables military to keep up open request in “upset territories”. They have the power to preclude a social occasion of at least five people in a zone, can utilize power or even open fire in the wake of giving due notice on the off chance that they feel an individual is in contradiction of the law. If sensible doubt exists, the military can likewise capture an individual without a warrant; enter or search a reason without a warrant; and boycott the ownership of guns.

Any individual captured or arrested might be given over to the official accountable for the closest police headquarters alongside a report enumerating the conditions that prompted the capture.

What is a disturbed area?

A disturbed territory is one which is announced by notice under Section 3 of the AFSPA. A zone can be upset because of contrasts or debates between individuals from various strict, racial, language or local gatherings or positions or networks. The Central Government, or the Governor of the State or overseer of the Union Territory can announce the entire or part of the State or Union Territory as an upset zone. An appropriate notice would need to be made in the Official Gazette. According to Section 3, it tends to be conjured in places where “the utilization of military in help of the common force is fundamental”.

How has it affected the people

A report by the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis focuses to different events of viciousness by security powers against regular citizens in Manipur since the entry of the Act. The report expresses that occupants accept that the arrangement for insusceptibility of security powers ask them to act more brutally. The article, in any case, proceeds to state that nullification or shriveling endlessly of the Act will empower revolt. Irom Chanu Sharmila otherwise called the “Iron Lady of Manipur” or “Mengoubi” (“the reasonable one”) is a social equality extremist, political lobbyist, and writer from the Indian province of Manipur. On 2 November 2000, she started an appetite strike which finished on 9 August 2016 following 16 years. On 2 November 2000, in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, ten regular folks were shot and executed while holding up at a bus station. The occurrence, known as the “Malom Massacre”, was supposedly dedicated by the Assam Rifles, one of the Indian Paramilitary powers working in the state.

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Current state of the act

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday summarily dismissed any talk of repealing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, likening the removal of AFSPA from the Valley to “sending our soldiers to the gallows.”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday summarily dismissed any talk of repealing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, likening the removal of AFSPA from the Valley to “sending our soldiers to the gallows.”

Conclusion

There are areas all around the world where peace takes time and men to achieve. We can take the example of the Gaza Strip that has been a highly contest piece of land between the Israelites and the Palestinians. Another example could be that of the Crimean Peninsula which was intensely fought over by the Russians and Ukrainians. The common aspects of these examples is firstly, historical mismanagement, i.e. there was no proper documentation and planning when the authoritative body at the time drew the borders and secondly is the fact that these areas are heavily militarized and are very dangerous.

The act in its essence aims at curbing internal violence and catch any spies inside the disputed area, in other words it aims at strictly policing the people and their activities. But, it has in a sense become a vicious instrument to be used by some soldiers as a vile excuse to perform abusive acts on rather innocent people.

Naming a place ‘disputed land’ does not do much good as well, it basically cages the people inside the area and puts a long lasting image of dangerous land for the outsiders or even embarrassingly for the people living in that very country.

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To conclude, I believe that no body of the army or the government must be given such a high volume of power and such less accountability for the repercussions of acting through that sort of power. It can lead to even more unrest and violence in a piece of land already sinking itself in violent turmoil.

Author: Tarun S,
IFIM law School, 2nd Year

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