‘No rethink’

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 30 Jan 2018 12:16:19

CHIEF of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat is right when he asserts that there is no need for a rethink on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) at this stage. Against the background of reported high-level discussions on a possible dilution of the AFSPA or even its withdrawal, General Rawat’s statement assumes special significance. General Rawat has stressed that the Army is particularly careful about its handling of operations and there should be no question to be raised on whether the AFSPA should be discontinued or diluted.

This issue has come up in public discussion time and again and some lobbies are working all the time to have the Act not just withdrawn but even scrapped. The Government has ruled out scrapping of the AFSPA but has not ignored the demand for its dilution. However, the security top brass has opposed any move suggesting dilution of the Act because they believe that the Armed Forces have never abused the Act -- as alleged by some elements. Their argument appears sound. Those who have understood the details of security situation in border areas realise the importance of empowering the Armed Forces with special power to deal with the challenges.

One of the arguments of the sections demanding withdrawal of the4 AFSPA is that the security forces often indulge in violation of human rights, which makes it necessary to have the Act withdrawn. This argument has no substance other than political propaganda. Some sections of the political community have made it a habit to keep complaining about human rights violations by official machinery including security forces. They have also tried to build an international lobby as well to malign the name of the country elsewhere.

However, over time, it has been proved beyond doubt that all this is nothing but politically-motivated propaganda aimed at bringing disrepute to the Government. This has been going on for years, no matter who is ruling at the Centre. Armed with this sound observation, the Government has refused to have a rethink of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. The Government has asserted that there has been no abuse of the Act and the security forces have conducted their operations within the reasonable limits of all the laws.

General experience has shown often that the security forces have suffered a great deal on account of various tactics the separatists have adopted in Kashmir and also in North-East. Using children as a human shield from behind which to conduct various undesirable activities has been one of the methods adopted to embarrass the security forces. Kashmir also saw how the separatists used youngsters for heavy stone pelting on the security forces when they launched their anti-insurgency operations.
Each time, the security forces restrained themselves from taking any stringent action against such unholy operations by the separatists. Yet, the separatists used their frontal organisations to accuse the Government of violations of human rights. That allegation did not have any substance. It is against this background that General Rawat’s insistence that there is no need of a rethink on AFSPA has to be viewed.

National security is not a child’s play and needs to be tackled in total seriousness. The Government must never fall prey to vicious and malicious propaganda against its actions. The Army Chief is more than right in his assertion and the Government cannot afford to ignore his views. The best way to deal with this situation is to say a straight, uncompromising “No” to any demand to have the AFSPA scrapped withdrawn or diluted. It is an important Act that has helped the Government so far.