Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)

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  • Hans Raj Singh asked: Why the people of Manipur want AFSPA to be repealed? Which section of AFSPA does Irom Sharmila wants to be repealed?

    Namrata Goswami replies: The people of Manipur want the AFSPA repealed because they view it as repressive law which denies them their fundamental rights. According to the AFSPA, a person can be arrested without warrant on mere suspicion, without evidence, that he or she is supporting insurgencies. This has created a militarized political space, which curtails civil liberties, in their viewpoint.

    I do not think Irom Sharmila is fasting for the repeal of one particular section of the AFSPA. She wants the act in its entirety to be repealed.

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    Bhujaya Bhowmik asked: Is not the crisis over "AFSPA" a result of some major strategic errors of the Government of India?

    K C Dixit replies: India’s approach in dealing with the separatists has been more than democratic and unusually humane, giving them considerable political space despite their abrasive anti-national postures. India has allowed them to meet external adversaries in its own capital city and travel to foreign countries for garnering political and financial support.

    India has always favoured a political solution to Kashmir problem. In 1947, India gave up the military option by appealing to the United Nations for a negotiated political solution. Again, in 1965 India chose the political way out to find a solution, even restoring the strategic Haji Pir Pass to Pakistan to show political flexibility. Yet again in 1971, India allowed its long term political considerations over-ride short term perspectives. It did not stop here and agreed to the ambiguous 1972 Simla Agreement. India has taken measures like visit to Pakistan by Prime Minister, de-escalation of Kargil conflict by non-retaliatory actions at the LoC, back-channel dialogue with Pakistan, allowing travel and trade across the LoC in J&K, running Lahore Bus Service etc. While the government feels that it is dealing with its own people, the separatists do not think they are Indians.

    Any revision or removal of AFSPA from selected valley districts – rightly resisted by the armed forces – is a red herring as the current protests have been provoked by the police and not military action. Any concession under duress will become the baseline for further demands by the separatists in the next phase of their agitation.

    India has been categorically rejecting the right to self-determination by the separatists and wants a solution within the framework of its constitution, which implies that the separatists must accept that J&K belongs to India and no dispute over its status exists. It is high time that the softness in handling separatists is examined fully in the interest of the nation’s sovereignty and any attempt to challenge Indian Statehood by the separatists be dealt with firmly, leaving no room for violence in the society.