HRW pitches in, seeks AFSPA removal

New Delhi, Sep 9 : Member of Civil society and Human Rights organisations Wednesday called for repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) and accused troops of misusing the Act in troubled Jammu and Kashmir and the North-East region.

"AFSPA has been in force since past 52 years and the Act has been misused by the troops. The Act has become an object of hate and should not have remained in force for decades. It has created a climate of impunity and abuse that has embolden police, paramilitary forces and military to commit grave human rights violations,” Mennakshi Ganguly, South Asia Director of the Human Rights Watch said at conference to assess the call to "Repeal the AFPSA".

The conference was organised by Peoples Union for Civil Liberty and other social groups besides European Union. E N Rammohan, former Director General of BSF, Lt Gen B S Malik, Wilfred Dcosta attended the conference.

Enacted in 1958 as a short-term measure to allow deployment of the army against an armed separatist movement in India’s northeastern Naga Hills, AFSPA has been invoked for more than five decades and since been used throughout Northeast India. A variant of the law was also used in Punjab during a separatist movement in the 1980s and 90s, and has been in force in Jammu and Kashmir since 1990.

Conference organiser Binalakshmi Nepram said AFSPA has entered its 52 years of implementation. “Government panels, United Nations and hundreds of civil society organisations across India have called for its repeal, but the issue continues to remain deadlocked. Our meeting is intended to break this deadlock and to bring forward various views on the issue, so that we can consult and advise each other to the best viable solution.”

Speaking on the occasion, Rammohan said that good and efficient force will never violate laws. “The AFPSA is being misused by inefficient and incompetent officers for promoting their interests,” he said.

Security Analyst, Ravinder Pal Singh said AFSPA has allowed members of the armed forces to perpetrate abuses with impunity because certain clauses in the law provide them with relative immunity from prosecution. “The military feels protected by AFSPA. But this has negative outcomes for the military in its discipline and professionalism. It would be useful to examine a modifying legislation that discourages possible of acts of impunity by the security forces,” he said.

The speakers said there are various judgments on the allegations of human rights violations. The courts have found forces acting under AFPSA guilty of violation of human rights and ordered compensations besides prosecuting the perpetrators in several cases.

Some speakers said the government has promised to make certain changes in the Act and they should go ahead with it. “Some top brass of the defence forces are resisting the changes and creating hurdles for the government,” they added.