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Round Table Discussion Held on 'AFSPA - The Way Forward'

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  • February 10, 2012

    During the year 2011, the improved security situation was a result of the symbiotic contributions made by the security forces and the state government. However, this hard fought peace has been overshadowed by the deadlock over the revocation of AFSPA.

    Given the context of the ongoing debate, IDSA conducted a round table discussion on “AFSPA - The Way Forward” on February 8, 2012. In order to focus on specific issues, the following options were placed before the participants: -

    • Complete Revocation of AFSPA.
    • Partial Revocation of AFSPA (Disturbed Area status lifted from certain parts of State).
    • AFSPA is amended to include specific safeguards and provisions, thereby ensuring that current concerns are met.
    • Maintaining the status quo.
    • Application of Ranbir Penal Code, the equivalent of the Criminal Procedure Code (with additional safeguards for security forces).
    • Operate under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention Act) 2008 (with additional safeguards for security forces).

    Further, in order to make the discussion comprehensive and holistic, specialists from diverse fields with experience in building public perception, planning, execution and policy prescription, as related to the subject, were invited. The session was chaired by Mr. G.K. Pillai, former Home Secretary and now Distinguished Fellow at IDSA. The other participants included, Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, Chairman Minorities Commission; Dr. Arvind Gupta, Director General IDSA; Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Prakash Menon, now with the National Security Council Secretariat; Maj. Gen. (Retd.) Nilendra Kumar, former Judge and Advocate General of the Indian Army and now Director Amity Law School; Maj. Gen. Umong Sethi, former Major General of General Staff, Northern Command; Mr. B.N. Ramesh, IG CRPF; Mr. Pradip Phanjoubam, Editor Imphal Free Press; Mr. Iftikhar Gilani, DNA; and Col. (Retd.) Vivek Chadha.

    The speakers expressed their views on the legal implications of AFSPA, its need, applicability and reasons for changes if any. A variety of views came up from the participants on the issue, from support for keeping the existing law, further humanising it, completely removing it and, finally, functioning under existing counter terrorism laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act 1967 as amended in 2008, with suitable modifications.

    Some of the issues that were emphasised were: -

    • There is a crisis of credibility of AFSPA, more as a result of poor perception management, rather than human rights violations in the recent past.
    • Whichever law is finally in place, it needs to be humane, transparent and responsive to the local population.
    • Armed Forces need protection and operational flexibility while operating in disturbed areas.
    • Accountability of the government and armed forces has to meet the expectations of the people.
    • Procedural delays result in lack of faith in existing laws.
    • Implementation and accountability of any law will remain the basis for its effectiveness and perception, rather than enacting new ones.