New Delhi, Apr 5 : The Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA), bogged down in controversies for decades in north east and Jammu and Kashmir, is again back in public focus after the issue of 'human rights' have been flagged off in the Congress manifesto and subsequently taken up by the BJP to slam the grand old party.
Without going into political aspects of the debate, it is worth mentioning that the primary complain against the Act – even in the past – has been that under its provisions all security forces operating in trouble-torn areas are given ‘unbridled power’. In effect, the AFSPA goes hand-in-hand with the Disturbed Area Act of 1976.
Under the AFSPA provisions, even a non-commissioned officer (rank of havildars) is granted the right to shoot and to kill based on mere suspicion in order to maintain the public order.
But the complexity of the demand for repeal of the AFSPA is summed up well by a section of BJP leaders who say - “The intricacies of the AFSPA in the northeast and Kashmir could be understood by only realising how the locals believe that the Indian Army is only an instrument of expansionist designs”.
The Congress or for that matter parties like National Conference, therefore, see the AFSPA as a mechanism to exploit the natives, curtail freedom and commit excesses on them.
BJP sources have pointed out that in Manipur a few years back, ‘abuse’ of power and ‘extra judicial’ killings involved a state police personnel Herojit.
“In 2012, Manipur police officials briefed CBI after the case was taken up that probably Manipur policeman Herojit was supposed to have been involved in over 130 extra judicial killings,” the source said.
This is the paradox and also the oft-pointed out double standards of the political class.
BJP's official Twitter handle had said - "There are 1799 applications filed for prosecution of security officials under AFSPA, when terrorists are killed or arrested. It is always torture, theft and misbehaviour including with women which is alleged. Take away the sanction provisions, this number will multiply ten times. Officers of the Armed Forces will only be facing trials not defending the sovereignty. Don’t play with the Armed forces".
In this context, it is worthwhile to quote a former Nagaland Chief Minister Late Vamuzo, who said years back, “There is a cycle effect involving governance, deployment of armed forces and opportunistic stand taken by politicians on AFSPA”.
Vamuzo’s comment did not come out of nothing. In fact, in nineties, one Manipur chief minister had favoured revoking AFSPA but declined permission to withdraw armed forces from 60 odd posts in the state saying, “you cannot do that! What will happen to my law and order situation?”
Hence, military officials have often called it a necessary tool. In this context, BJP leader Jagdambika Pal says that “In fact, when the UPA tried to bring about changes in the AFSPA related laws after 2010, none other than Mulayam Singh Yadav, a former Defence Minister, was one of the leaders who opposed the move”.
The BJP leaders say even during UPA regime, the then Home Minister P Chidambaram had piloted the move to ‘amend’ AFSPA and therefore when the Congress manifesto has tried to revive these issues again, not many were surprised.
BJP sources claim there were differences between Chidambaram (the then Home Minister) and AK Antony (the then Defence Minister) wherein the latter said - any move to dilute AFSPA could leave the army severely handicapped to operate in the troubled areas Jammu and Kashmir and northeast”.
In Manipur, the then Congress government in 2009 was alarmed by spurt in killing, arson and kidnapping by ultra groups and the Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh had warned that the Act may be re-imposed in some pockets.
Therefore, in these aspects come questions about ‘encounter killings’ – those have often made national headlines in states like Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Maharashtra and Gujarat and the point here is ‘related’ to normal powers of the state police force.
Sources point out a few years back like Mumbai cop Daya Nayak, once suspended and later reinstated, Herojit came to be known as an ‘encounter specialist’.
In July 2009, the death or killing of Chunkham Sanjit, a former member of the insurgent outfit People’s Liberation of Army (PLA) of Manipur had actually created problems for Herojit.
In this context, the BJP leaders say Daya Nayak in Mumbai or Herojit in Manipur operated with powers under police laws and had nothing to do with AFSPA. (UNI)