The media fueled animosity against the AFSPA is a blatant example of distortions and exaggerations meant to polarize public opinion with zero understanding of ground realities
Google the term “AFSPA” and you’ll be bombarded with article after article, filled to the brim with dramatic expressions and descriptions of human rights violations perpetrated by the Indian Army. The adjective “draconian” seems to have almost prefixed itself to the law, thanks to the humiliating christening meted out by the “national” media.
For the uninitiated, the AFSPA stands for the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a legislation that endows a set of extra-judicial powers on Army personnel once a region has been declared as “disturbed” and the Army has been called in to maintain law and order.
At this point, before you proceed, I would advise you to actually read AND understand the six provisions of the AFSPA (please take a minute and do so)
Done ? Let’s now analyze this.
The Army is called in only once the existing law keeping machinery a.k.a the police is no longer capable of doing so i.e. once they have failed to control the situation. First off, let us understand that this kind of a situation does not arise under normal circumstances. Imagine a riotous, near-anarchic atmosphere which threatens to boil over and go out of all control every moment. Atrocities being committed every minute and lawlessness making itself the reigning rule. What a wonderfully peaceful state of affairs, right ?
The AFSPA, contrary to what is being misleadingly projected, is NOT a license to kill with impunity. It is NOT a free-pass to rape, murder and assault. Nor is it a gateway for human right violations to be blatantly committed.
Fully comprehend this : The Army enjoys no “special” powers as such, nor any unconstitutional powers. It is simply being given the powers which are available to the police under normal circumstances.
Basically, every policeman in your city already wields the same powers which are given to a soldier under the AFSPA. And no, contrary to a popular misconception, the Army cannot by itself assume such powers. It is directed to do so by the Central Government once the situation can no longer be tackled by the local administration and police.
And unlike what the media likes to create a ruckus about, Army personnel happen to be accountable and answerable to their own superiors, the Army tribunal and most of all, their own consciences. Kindly do realize that the soldier is not a machine, nor a sadistic psychopath. He is a husband, a son, a father and a human being beyond all. The average Indian soldier is a deeply dedicated, fiercely patriotic individual who puts his own life on the line to safeguard the interests of his nation every time he is asked to perform his duty.
Why do we so consistently fail to understand and empathize with this aspect ? Just why does the media have to dehumanize the Army and portray it as a bunch of ruthless uniformed cyborgs ? I have rarely, if ever, come across grosser misrepresentations of the truth.
It is ludicrously easy for the modern “journalist” to sit in his air-conditioned cubicle and pass sweeping statements regarding human right violations and atrocities committed by the Army personnel in these areas. He doesn’t have to face the bullets. He doesn’t have to face a hostile mob driven insane to a nearly murderous rage. He doesn’t have to defend the public from a rioting mob hell bent on mindless destruction. He doesn’t have to put his life on the balance and fight back against the gun-totting terrorists.
But he does have to rake up the TRPs and public attention. And that is what our troubled nation needs, isn’t it ?
So let’s sympathize with him and unquestioningly, as befits us : the urban middle class and upper class, the “educated” sections of the society, the upholders of democratic and cosmopolitan ideals; let us heed his words and raise our collective voices to exhibit our “outrage” over this.
So you basically feel your blood boil because Burhan Wani, a terrorist leader, was shot dead ? You felt outraged because the Army fired upon protesters who were threatening to riot and attack them, despite being warned ? Or maybe you were deeply saddened because so many of the Kashmiri youth are being tortured, despite the fact that a worryingly large number of them are, in fact, associated with activities of local terror groups and are terrorist sympathizers ?
I fully admit the fact that over the years, we have had instances of the AFSPA being misused : rapes, encounter killings,human rights violation, torture techniques being used during interrogations, to name a few. These are definitely the dark side of the reality. Every single act does have an inherently negative side to it, a potential to be misused and abused.
But, with all due respect to the unfortunate victims of these sorry incidents, my contention stands firm. These are NOT sufficient reason to call for a repeal of the AFSPA in places that continue to be dangerously unstable like Kashmir. These are also not reasons enough for the disproportionately negative and demonic image being assigned to the Indian Army by the media.
We need to accept the fact that everything comes in shades of grey. If there are constructive pay-offs, there are bound to be dark realities too. And that is what defines a necessary evil.
Granted, the AFSPA is prone to abuse. Yes, it can be unjust for the innocents living in the regions where it is in force. True, atrocities have been committed in its name.
But before we, swaddled by our false sense of security and half-baked knowledge of ground realities proceed to openly disparage the AFSPA, here is a sobering note. The only thing that is still holding the Valley and sections of the North-East to the rest of the country is the enforced authority being implemented by the Army. The sole reason why agents of terror are not running berserk, annihilating lives and societies in those regions is because of the protection of the Armed Forces.
More than a legislation granting special powers, as its name suggests, the AFSPA serves as kind of protection for the protectors themselves. How on earth can we expect the soldier to take harsh decisions and risky choices necessary to maintain peace if he is not assured of immunity ? If he himself is afraid of frivolous FIRs at a later point of time, just because he was performing his duty ?
Without the AFSPA the Army personnel would be sitting ducks in a disturbed region, powerless and ineffective. Even with it in place, we have enough misfortune befalling them on an alarmingly regular basis.
Last week two Army personnel were brutally beheaded. 24 CRPF personnel were killed in Bastar. And our government brought out its most powerful weapon: Kadi Ninda. It strongly condemned the act.
And look at the effect it had. The Naxals felt so bad, the Kashmiri terrorists and the Pak Rangers had their feelings so hurt by this “Kadi Ninda” that they immediately ceased all their atrocities.
The strongest detractors of the AFSPA happen to be the separatist leaders and politicians looking to lap up the public angst and gain support for themselves, in addition to our venerable media, themselves stuck in a quagmire of unethical journalistic practices.
I am not going to rant about how undeserving these scum are to criticize the Army. That point is beyond obvious.
The least we can do is to stop this senseless demonization of the very organisation which stakes it’s everything in service of the nation, and avoid being swayed by ignorant, biased propaganda that seeks to focus only on the negative aspects of what is very clearly, a double edged sword.