By Vivek Chadha
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Additional info for Armed Forces Special Powers Act: The Debate
The number of allegations and decibel levels increase exponentially with improvement of the situation without any reference to fact, to score points and exploit emotions. Some journalists have investigated the pending cases in a few police stations in highly terrorist infested areas. According to their findings, the FIRs lodged in a single police station implicating the army in cases of damage to property or loss of life or misconduct during counter insurgency operations over the two decades might even run into hundreds.
Over the years India has been facing the challenge of insurgency in some states and has employed the armed forces of the union to contend with it. To combat this very unusual situation, special powers were given to the forces in the form of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) by the parliament. These powers were granted to the armed forces to effectively retrieve the situation from ‘public order domain’ to the ‘law and order domain’ without the fear of the situation slipping back into disorder and to enable normal instruments of democratic governance to become effective again.
But this is an area that must also be covered by Rules to ensure that permission, if not refused in a given time frame, will be presumed to have been given. The weight of the argument then must be that the armed forces be convinced by government and representatives of the public of the arguments to rescind the Act, given the protection already extended to them by the existing law. But there is an alternative. The deployment of the army extensively in civilian areas in Kashmir is a hangover frozen along the demands of the war of 1947-48.