Gospel of AFSPA
“This explains why the entire history of ancient and modern states is merely a series of revolting crimes” – Michael Bekunin
INKSIGHT BY MEHMOOD-UR-RASHID
Army’s Northern Command Chief Lt Gen BS Jaswal has thrown a holy ring around AFSPA. So stay posted, Armed Forces Special Powers Act is sacred. Eternally justified, always relevant; none on earth can bring it to question. The statement of the Army officer is a violent shock to people who wanted the Act lifted. It’s also a slap in the face of mainstream politics that always tries to convince Kashmir of people’s security being the crowning priority of the governments that be. And it’s a ghastly reminder to all of us that our rights as humans stay suspended till armed forces in Kashmir vouch to the masters at Delhi that every single person in this valley has been incapacitated. It is a matter of their discretion and their perception. It is for them to get convinced, not for us to get them convinced. There is a great lesson for mainstream political parties, our bureaucracy, and even for those who are often called as moderates. This Act is a damning remembrance of how the people of Kashmir are shorn of all the rights and securities when it comes to the state of India. It is a chilling message sent to all. So when such an Act is called Holy, hair must stand on end.
Though it isn’t the first time that Army has come to its defense, but the language used by the Army officer is indicative of the mind that works behind such laws. ( Why blame Army alone, ‘our’ men in Assembly have stood in defense of the Act!) Language and practice share an intimate and dynamic relationship with each other. Once a thing is declared holy, facts become irrelevant, and anyone who underlines it suddenly appears as an infidel, heathens of the modern state. They become less than humans. Their mere existence as ‘infidels’ fits the description of problem. They must either be made to submit, or “exit completely”. Because the problem is not about them but them, the final solution lies in the dissolution of human. Like the religious wars of olden times modern states too have created ways to exterminate populations. In the name of saving democracies, defending countries, and promoting civilization extreme barbaric acts have been committed. Africa, North America, Middle East, Indochina, Central Asia, and our own Kashmir – is there a patch on earth that hasn’t been drenched in blood to please the gods of state. When a Kashmiri is killed, it is not an act of murder. It is an act of propitiation. It is all divine.
Just a cursory look at the contents of this Act shows how complete is the vulnerability of the people against whom it is made to work, and how absolute is the impunity that it grants to armed forces. It was May 22nd, 1958 that the President of India promulgated an ordinance entitled Armed Forces (Assam and Manipur) Special Powers Ordinance. It conferred powers on the Governor of Assam and the Chief Commissioner of Manipur to declare the whole or any part of the state of Assam or UT of Manipur respectively as disturbed area. Later the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Bill was passed by the Parliament, and on 11th September, 1958, after receiving the assent of the President the Act went into the law books as AFSPA. Later it clasped in its tyrannical claws entire North-East. It was exactly 11th of September, 1990 that The Gazette of India informed its readers that The Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990 has been passed. (Interesting, 11th September had happened to Kashmir way back in 1990s, and to North East even decades before!)
By dint of this Act Governor of J&K or the Central Government have a right to declare the entire state or parts of it as disturbed. It’s all based on how they perceive and interpret things. There is no scope for contesting or confronting the two on this. Once the area is declared disturbed any commissioned officer, warrant officer, non-commissioned officer or any other person of equivalent rank in the armed forces enjoy immense powers over the lives and property of the population. They can arrest, frisk, cordon, and even shoot anyone they feel is a threat to law. They can do so if they feel that a ‘reasonable suspicion’ existed. This reason is entirely for them to be developed! Now look at the comprehensive impunity enjoyed by the armed forces; the Act says, “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted, except with the previous sanction of the Central Government, against any person in respect of anything done or purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by this Act.”
Questioned by the international bodies, vehemently criticized by the Human Rights organizations and unfailingly lambasted by the social and legal activists, the Act still stays. The experience of last twenty years is sufficient to tell us that this law discounts people completely, and reduces them to mere objects; objects that come in the vision of the state. Mahmoud Darwish, transmitted to us by our own Agha Shahid's, is poignant…
…this land will now host atoms of dust
Till they find that there are only atoms of dust, and not humans, Kashmir is disturbed.
The very nature of relationship between Delhi and Srinagar will keep this area Disturbed. So the problem is innately attached to the people of Kashmir. Chomsky is a relevant read here when in the context of cold war he writes: “As a matter of logic, no empirical evidence is required; pure thought suffices to establish the truth.” That is why when we have just some hundred armed militants in the entire region according to the army’s own estimate, we find it ‘logical’ to station seven hundred thousand troops and equip them with unrestrained powers. No mathematics on earth can draw an equation between the two figures. It can only be divine. Gen Jaswal is right.Tailpiece: Just one change in the contents of this Act can make it more understandable. Replace Disturbed Area by Disturbed People.
(The columnist is GK Magazine Editor. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jun 2010 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 16 Jun 2010 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 17 Jun 2010 00:00:00 IST
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