Brigadier (Retired) Manjit Singh
The Anna wave has changed the landscape of the Indian nation. It has given to the common man a greater degree of empowerment in articulation of national issues as also day to day affairs of the State. As and when this new trend gains firm roots, India will attain the posture to declare itself as a nation that is truly democratic. While moving forward, it is necessary to ensure that the instruments of State are kept intact because freedom and democracy should not lead to anarchy. There has to be a healthy interface between the government and the governed; any kind of mistrust can have catastrophic ramifications.
There are many areas in which the government is no option but to take some hard decisions; defence and security is the primary amongst them. With the rising threat of terrorism even the most advanced nations of the world have been compelled to pass certain laws which restrict freedom and give the State overriding powers to deal with matters of security. In India, the challenges are all the more critical. Under these circumstances, as an off shoot of the “Anna wave”, the demand for repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act that is active in certain disturbed areas of the country including Jammu and Kashmir comes across as a considerably risky trend. The impetus has been provided by a desire to see the iron lady of Manipur, Irom Sharmila, putting an end to her decade long fast. However, when seen beyond the emotional context an act of this nature would be catastrophic, especially so in sensitive areas like Jammu and Kashmir.
The demand is propelled by a perception that the Act is draconian in nature, insofar that it provides to the security personnel sweeping powers which have a scope of being misused against the common man. It is also being implied that the act erodes the trust that the common man places on the state and that it is superfluous since the conditions no longer demand it.
A brief look at the situation in Jammu and Kashmir in this context would not be remiss. It is common knowledge that forces across the border are not relenting from the unholy pursuit of exporting terror to India through Jammu and Kashmir. This point has been driven home in ample measure by the voluminous increase in infiltration attempts in the last two months or so. Each bid cost the Indian security forces dear in terms of loss of human life including a young officer Lieutenant Navdeep Singh. It is after paying such a heavy price that a semblance of normalcy is being maintained in the valley. Its restoration has cost much more and as such must not lightly be frittered away.
Another matter of concern is the volatile situation in the neighbourhood especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. That apart the Chinese army has increased its presence and activities in the “Northern Areas” forcibly occupied by Pakistan and then handed over to China. All of this does not augur well for India and it can be safely surmised that the threat to Jammu and Kashmir at the moment is at an all-time high.
AFSPA has an in-built mechanism that ensures that no transgressions are committed. In fact even the whiff of any kind of misconduct is thoroughly investigated and justice is meted out at speeds unimaginable in the civil judicial system. The recent case where men of the security forces were accused of having raped a local girl bears testimony to this fact. Full cooperation was extended to allow the law to take its course. The entire allegations against the Army personnel were disproved conclusively through the established legal route.
It is certainly not the intention of the Government to turn the state into a permanent garrison. The situation is assessed regularly by the Unified Command under the Chief Minister of the state and honest attempts are made to reduce the troop presence both in terms of numbers and visibility. Last year about 30,000 Army troops were moved out from the state. This year a large number of bunkers have been dismantled. The presence of the Central Reserve Police Force has also been reduced. In the meanwhile, the Jammu and Kashmir state police is being geared to deal with inadvertent situations that are likely to arise in the circumstances so that they can successfully take over from the central forces. This requires equipment, training, time and money. Nonetheless, the process is on. The sustained efforts put in by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah to revamp the state police are appreciable.
What people need to be educated about is the intent of the adversaries to cause turbulence in their midst. The over ground workers sponsored and paid by the adversary continue to remain netted and run errands for those across the LoC. Terrorist acts may not be so common against the populace and the Army but the Police continues to be targeted so as to dent its morale and reduce its effectiveness. The infrastructure for infiltration, arms training and accessories for misguided and brainwashed youth is intact. All of this points towards the possibility of resurgence of turbulence, as and when the situation presents itself for exploitation. Such people who study the security issues in detail understand and perceive the potential of the situation returning to the Nineties should the Nation lower its guard. Peace and normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir have been attained at a very high human as well as economic cause. We would be well advised to work hard at preserving it rather than relaxing our vigil .