It was a usual night on 23rd February 1991 for the people of Kunan-Poshpora villages in Kupwara of Jammu and Kashmir, until a Battalion of the Rajasthan Rifles 68th Brigade conducted a search operation in the village. Villagers claimed that army personnel dragged around 100 women including pregnant ones and raped them. If this number is believed to be true then it will be the biggest case of sexual violence by state forces in India’s history. Army dismissed the charges and case never came to its logical conclusion. This is one of the cases among thousands of atrocities done by army personnel.
The Army was and is able to do such atrocities because of the immense power is given to them through the draconian law called, AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Power Act). It gives immunity to army personnel under without prior permission of India, no prosecution can be held in any civil courts of India. This has given the army personnel enough power to violate human rights of people. This goes against the natural rights of people and hence this draconian law should be removed.
An amnesty report which was prepared by field research, documentation and information collected through RTI Act, says that “The violence in Jammu and Kashmir has taken a terrible human toll on all sides. From 1990 to 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir state government reportedly recorded a total of over 43,000 people killed. Of those killed, 21,323 were said to be ‘militants’,10 13,226 ‘civilians’ (those not directly involved in the hostilities) killed by armed groups, 5,369 security force personnel killed by armed groups, and 3,642 ‘civilians’ killed by security forces. Armed groups have committed thousands of abuses. In general, victims of human rights abuses in the state have been unable to secure justice, regardless of whether the perpetrator is a state or non-state actor.”
However, supporters of AFSPA say that there is a military justice system in place guilty is court marshalled. To this, the Supreme Court of India has criticised military justice system on many occasions, notably in 1982 when it quoted another judgement which said, “Courts-martial are typically ad hoc bodies appointed by a military officer from among his subordinates. They have always been subject to varying degrees of command influence. In essence, these tribunals are simply executive tribunals whose personnel are in the executive chain of command.”
It should be noted that in spite of imposing AFSPA, the insurgencies has even risen which shows the failure of AFSPA. Also, this law is not removed from places like Nagaland which has become peaceful now. We should not forget that there are alternatives of AFSPA. It can be done by repealing the AFSPA and replacing it by more humane law and thus we are not creating a vacuum. Also, remove the act from places where normalcy is achieved. Thus, we see that it can be done, but it requires political willpower to do so.