This refers to Sanjoy Hazarika’s article “An abomination called AFSPA” (Feb. 12). The Supreme Court found the Act constitutionally valid. However the draconian powers the Act gives to the armed forces, particularly Section 4 which allows a soldier to shoot at sight under certain circumstances, can result in abomination, if misused. The basis for giving life to this otherwise dormant enactment is the notification by the Home Ministry declaring an area “disturbed.” Failing to maintain law and order with vast resources such as the para-military and the police it has under its command, the MoH declares an area disturbed and hands over the situation to the Ministry of Defence. The armed forces, trained to protect the borders, are deployed to restore normalcy. There can be no two opinions that rape and murder committed by soldiers must be dealt with firmly.
The crux of the problem is the prolonged deployment of the army in internal security duties in a particular area. The government must first withdraw the notification declaring an area disturbed and let the soldiers return to the barracks.
Maj Gen A.B. Gorthi (retd.),
It would be wrong to assume that army personnel are trigger-happy and lack self-discipline. The army’s severe operational constraints on the “disturbed” fields and fronts should be appreciated. Insurgents armed with sophisticated weapons do not think twice before targeting our jawans.
At the same time, the rule of law is supreme and must be upheld. An army personnel accused of sexual assault and homicide should not be given any immunity and should be tried by civilian courts.
Mr. Hazarika has asked disturbing questions about an Act that violates people’s right to life. Sharpening the focus on the politics that has disallowed the repeal of the inhuman Act, the state’s role in declaring an area “disturbed,” and the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee report of 2005 that is yet to be tabled in Parliament, he has taken the debate out of the limited army-bashing discourse. One hopes the culture of blame and denial, by both the state and the army, will end.
I am at a loss to understand the continuous criticism of the armed forces, when they have been tackling the ugliest situations in Jammu and Kashmir or the north-east. They need to be given some authority if we want them to discharge their responsibility assiduously. AFSPA has provided the much required strength to the forces to counter insurgency.
The immunity enjoyed by the army under AFSPA does not permit it to take away or infringe upon civil rights and liberties in the name of national security. AFSPA is indeed draconian; its provisions destroy constitutional guarantees wherever it is in force, rendering the army independent and superior to the civilian power. I welcome the Justice Verma Committee recommendation that military men accused of sexual assault be tried under civilian laws. AFSPA should be amended at the earliest.