India is popularly considered as a nation which gives due importance to the rights and liberties of its citizens. It has absorbed the ideals of democracy in its truest sense. The Government is indeed “by the people, to the people and for the people”. However, it is difficult to imagine that in a country like ours, exists a law which makes a mockery of the basic human rights. The recent violence in Kashmir triggered a nationwide debate on the validity of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958, popularly known as AFSPA. First introduced in the states of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland and Tripura, the act was later extended to Jammu and Kashmir in July 1990. It is a draconian law which gives unbridled powers to the armed forces. Any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces is granted the right to shoot to kill based on mere suspicion that it is necessary to do so in order to “maintain the public order” in a “disturbed area”.
The Introduction to the Act says that it has been enacted to assist State Governments which were incapable to maintain internal disturbance. However the act has been widely criticized by national and international human rights agencies. When United Nations Human Rights Committee questioned the validity of AFSPA in 1991 under Indian Law and in light of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Indian Govt. harped on the fact that it is necessary to prevent the secession of the North Eastern states. A brief recap of history will tell us that these states were forcefully made a part of the Indian Republic after 1947 by signing various agreements with a view of their strategic significance. These states could never be fully integrated in our country’s mainstream due to vast differences in social structure, culture, language, facial features and geographical remoteness. Furthermore, the...
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