The writer of the article, “Counter to the spirit of counter-insurgency” (June 14) deserves accolades for his detailed and realistic perspective vis-à-vis insurgencies and counter-insurgency strategies. What needs to be reiterated here is that in New Delhi’s three-pronged approach (military, political and economic) to deal with rebels, the value of seeking a political settlement cannot be over-emphasised. Insurgent groups should be invited to participate in elections and then allowed to run the State if they win.
There is no doubt that any threat to the nation, whether internal or external, must be dealt with using an iron hand. Such measures should infuse a sense of security and confidence in the minds of people. But keeping people under fear also will not help in any manner. AFSPA denies the civilian his fundamental right to live with dignity and without fear in his motherland. The government should consider all the factors listed in this article and ensure that the common man lives in peace and dignity, and without fear.
The seeds of AFSPA go back to 1942 when the British promulgated the Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance to suppress the Quit India Movement. Based on the same principle of suppressing disturbances, the Parliament of independent India enacted AFSPA. The issue before us now is the validity of the law in line with the principle of its initial promulgation. As has been said, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The time has come for the government to dilute that power.
The suggestion of WHAM (winning hearts and minds) is as old as the hills. It may be worthwhile exploring the reasons for having AFSPA in the first place. The main reason is the near-impossible task of changing the mindset of the rebels in the first place. Given their diehard attitude, as seen among Maoists in particular, can the approach of countering force by using force be given up?
It is incorrect to portray our forces as being capable of indulging in lazy, non-professional soldiering. If the situation in Kashmir has improved, it is largely because of the forces focussing on efficient and people-friendly operations. The Army is very conscious about human rights violations and observes self-restraint while dealing with civilians. AFSPA is a necessity to operate in a situation where the population is hostile to the forces. Its removal will pave the way for inimical elements levelling false charges against the Army, which will demoralise the soldier on the field. A toothless Army is worse than a “lazy” one.