Army Powers AFSPA

The UPA government has decided to reject Justice Jeevan Reddy’s report calling for scrapping of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), after the Army rejected attempt to dilute its powers in the northeast. What is most unfortunate in all of this is the manner in which the Government’s own committee’s report, which had called for repealing AFSPA, should be thrown out without properly deliberating on the suggestions put forth. The question, which needs to asked is why even set up a committee if the government is not willing, or in a position to objectively scrutinize the report in the first place. The enormity of tax payers money spend on running the committee could have been avoided if the government could have simply got the opinion of the Army from the first go itself. That the government finds it not even worthy to accept the rationality of Reddy’s report and instead accepting the Army’s one sided argument that it is an attempt to dilute its power is therefore totally erroneous and a misplaced judgment on the part of the UPA. 

The manner in which the UPA government hurriedly set up the five-member committee to review the provisions of the controversial Act, in force in the Northeast and the announcement to this effect by the Union Home Minister himself on the eve of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s North-East tour of Manipur and Assam and now the rejection of its own committee report makes the entire exercise a sham to deceive the people and nothing more. Of more concern to Delhi should be the betrayal done once again to the people of the northeast. Despite a demand from most of the northeastern states to do away with the draconian law, the government has decided to retain AFSPA, which is akin to promoting military rule under the garb of national security. While this is an old tactic but what is even more distressing is that the government remains blind to the reality that such diktats have only alienated people of the region.

It also brings to the fore the huge gap there is between the ideals of democracy and the practice of it. Despite being the largest democracy in the world, India is fast losing credibility for her failure to uphold the basic ideals of a democratic society. Whether it has to do with draconian laws, human rights abuses, human trafficking etc. the establishment in Delhi has not been able to address these issues with the requisite political will that is demanded of it. The latest policy decision to retain the undemocratic AFSPA once again testifies to the military centric approach being applied to address genuine problems being faced by the people.

The most unfortunate part in this sordid affair is that the voice of the people in the region has been completely silenced and overpowered by the opinion makers in the military and security establishment. In a country that boasts itself of having a civilian government that is based on people’s mandate, such pre-conceived notions being carried by the power centers of the Indian Military establishment needs to be carefully examined. As such, the UPA government should do a rethink on the possibility of repealing or at least replacing the draconian AFSPA with the Unlawful Prevention Act as was suggested by the government’s own committee report.