Elections in Jammu and Kashmir cannot be complete without some negative references to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). Its revocation is a part of the election manifesto of some local political parties while separatists use the act as a tool for strengthening their call for a boycott of the polls. Surprisingly, nobody comes up with a workable plan as to how the security of the state would be organised in the absence of support from the army. Would the JK police take over all responsibilities? Would the separatists provide volunteers to fight the terrorists infiltrated by their associates across the border?
The Act is termed as draconian by its detractors, yet, nobody elaborates the draconian context. This is because, in actuality, AFSPA gives t the army powers similar to those vested upon the police for its normal function across the country. Since the police personnel are not above the law the Indian soldier functioning under AFSPA is also not above the law. The argument against the Act is essentially propagandist in nature.
It seems that the local leaders in Kashmir want the Indian soldier to protect them without any protection for his own self. His life is already at stake in performance of high risk duty in service of his nation; what these so-called leaders want is that his honour should also be at stake. The dictum is – should he escape being killed, he should surely land up in jail. Can it get more ludicrous than this?
Does AFSPA merit the kind of attention that is being given to it or is it simply a political gimmick? Are there factors other than politics that are involved in the game-plan? That the separatists would go against the army is a given. That they would do so at the behest of certain foreign forces inimical to the interests of India is also a given. But what does the mainstream political dispensation of the state gain out of hounding the very soldiers who provide to them protection?
The Pakistan army is aware of the need to limit the functionality of the Indian army in Kashmir in order to bring about the much needed resurrection of terrorism. It understands that revocation of AFSPA will severely curtail the functionality of the Indian army and this is what it has been pressurising its stooges in the state to achieve. Having been unsuccessful in engineering the withdrawal of AFSPA, it is now looking for the next best option which is partial revocation.
It, therefore, stands to reason that those advocating such an approach are doing so more because of pressure from external lobbies than any logical reason. Those supporting this argument are merely exhibiting their foreign sponsored vested interest. What they fail to understand is that they are losing their credibility as leaders who have an understanding of terrorism and insurgency.
The National Conference (NC) is bending backwards to take credit for the recent verdict by an Army General Court Martial (GCM) convicting fives soldiers, including two officers, for a fake encounter at Machil in the Kashmir valley. The self proclaimed accolades are misplaced. As per Army law a GCM is convened only after a Summary of Evidence (SoE) points to the possibility of an offence having been committed. The process of recording of SoE followed by the GCM in the Machil case has been going on for some time now and has simply reached its logical conclusion. The case, in fact, proves that the argument of the NC that Indian soldiers enjoy immunity from prosecution in criminal offences due to protection granted by the AFSPA is totally misplaced and misleading.
There are many pseudo intellectuals, self proclaimed opinion makers and so-called human rights activists who speak eloquent against the AFSPA. The content is mostly low on facts/logic and high on rhetoric. It is designed explicitly to ignite passions amongst the vulnerable sections of society.
First it was Arundhati Roy, who, out of the blue became an expert on Kashmir; then came the likes of Gautam Navlakha. A year or so back when Aam Aadmi Party was under the pretension of being the best thing that has happened to India since millenniums, we had Prashant Bhushan speaking against the Act. He went a step further to call for a plebiscite in Kashmiri, something that has, since long, been rejected not only by India but also Pakistan.
What impels these people to take an anti-national, pro-eparatist posture on the Kashmir issue? It cannot be concern for the people about whom they know less and care for lesser. One big attraction is the media attention that sermonising on the AFSPA begets. Even if a rank idiot stands near the Indian Parliament and starts speaking against AFSPA media channels will not only report it but also generate a debate. In the evening we will see anchors screaming “even simpletons feel AFSPA is bad for Kashmir, we have on our panel today so and so to discuss the issue….” Then, of course, there is the financial consideration, the wining, the dining and the foreign excursions that come along with the posture. The fact that the tab for these jaunts is, directly or indirectly, picked up by an enemy state is brushed under the carpet.
The recent cache of arms and ammunition recovered in Baramulla, Kashmir is evidence enough that terrorism is nowhere near over in the state. The need for vigilance and speedy action is more now than ever. It is, therefore, encouraging to see the central government taking a firm stand on the issue despite electoral compulsions. It is important to underline that while making loose statement on the security imperatives like AFSPA we are putting at risk the life and security of the people who have for long survived under the menacing shadow of cross border terrorism and are trying to come out of the same.