Jaleel, a human rights activist was abducted by Major Avtar Singh of 103rd unit of Territorial Army. After a cold blooded murder, his body was dumped in the Jhelum river. The report of the special investigation team stated unambiguously that Major Avtar singh was the person responsible for the murder. Still, the picture today shows the Major living peacefully in California while the victim’s family still awaits the “much delayed but definitely not denied” justice.
This happens to be one of the many cases which have been filed against the army personnel but haven’t seen the light of justice due to the protection given to these soldiers by the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, 1850.This act says that no civilian authority shall hold the trial of the case which involves an army soldier thus giving them a blanket immunity from civilian trials. Through these provisions, the army has refused to give the authority of deciding the accused’s fate to the civilian authorities. They claim to have their own internal “mechanism” to deal with such “aberrations”.
The result of the operation of this “internal mechanism” is that some extremely cold statistics were thrown on the face of the people. Statistics which state that more than 1500 cases of human rights violations have been filed against the Army in the last two decades. The police records 458 pending cases of civilian killings and rape.
Had the conduct of the armed forces not affected the society, it wouldn’t have been anybody’s concern as to how they were operationalising their disciplinary measures or whether they had a separate law to rule themselves but the fact that their acts are directly affecting the lives of the people who form the society along with them suffices to stress upon the need of observance of such steps that shall make the scrutiny process of the actions of army personnel more transparent in nature. The Army lives in a separate world of their own because of the nature of the job they do but that does not mean that they aren’t a party of the society and their acts don’t affect the society.
Yes, the forces are an extremely professional bunch but what can’t be denied is that the inner face of their discipline, respect and order comprises of facts which state that in 1991, about 100 women, including minors, the elderly, pregnant and disabled were allegedly raped by a 4th Rajputana Rifles Unit in Kunan poshpora, Kupwara. The centre has to give the J&K Government some powers through which a direct role can be played in the decisions which deal with the fate of not only the officer in question but also the victim who is a civilian.
The Centre’s attitude of consistently refusing the state government’s request’s of dealing with the soldiers involved in cases of human rights violations has to change. During 2007-2009, 23 requests of the J&K Government were refused by the Centre in relation to such cases. Therefore, Some power s with reasonable restrictions have to be given to the state so that neither is the army’s discipline or decorum is much disturbed but still there remains a minimum control which does not give them an absolute power.
This Act often works in favour for the officers as they have been given the power to arrest without a warrant which helps them in catching hold of the terrorists without any procedural hassles but it also leads to a considerable amount of misuse when an entire family is mercilessly tortured on the basis of a suspicion which might have arisen from wrong information.
The problems which are being faced by the army personnel in their organization should not result in causation of harm to innocent members of the society who had no role whatsoever to play anywhere. The plea is to save the innocent. Those who have no hand in the wrongful acts should not suffer. It’s not the fault of the residents of Kashmir that there are terrorists there. It’s not their fault that they are Kashmiris. Do not punish them for something which they haven’t done.
When I wrote this article, I did not write it because I have any hatred against our Army or because I disrespect them. I wrote it because my heart cries when I read that a 12 year old girl was raped by the “uniform uncle”. I wrote it because no law and no government ever aims at punishing an innocent but this is exactly what is happening in Kashmir. The saviours have become the destroyers and till the time the government puts a stop to this process of conversion, we cannot hope for the people of Kashmir to ever feel safe around the uniform.
The writer is a correspondent of Youth Ki Awaaz.