India AFSPA: Draconian military laws hinter normalcy, harm mental peace of people
-Dr. Abdul Ruff, Wednesday, March 25, 2015
India’s Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) is an Act of the Parliament of India which was passed on 11 September 1958. It is a law with just six sections granting special powers to the Indian Armed Forces in what the act terms as “disturbed areas”. The Act has received criticism from several sections for alleged concerns about human rights violations in the regions of its enforcement, where arbitrary killings, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and enforced disappearances have alleged to have happened. The territorial scope of Act also expanded to the five states of the North-East, – Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, and Tripura and to the Union Territories Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram. Later Jammu Kashmir was also brought under the AFSPA military law.
Politicians like P. Chidambaram and Saifuddin Soz of Congress have advocated revocation of AFSPA. Human rights groups condemn the special act of essentially criminal laws.
India government which cries loud when an Indian beggar or Indian thief is arrested or killed abroad but it does not car e about the life of Irom Sharmila, the Meitei girl in Manipur, Northeast India who fasts undo death and says she will refuse food until the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act is revoked. Indian regime wants everyone who does not support its draconian laws to strengthen military hold over the society to die or quit.
AFSPA violates the fundamental constitutional rights of right to life, liberty, equality, freedom of speech and expression, peaceful assembly, moving freely, practice of any profession, protection against arbitrary arrest and freedom of religion enshrined in Articles 21, 14, 19, 22 and 25 of the Constitution.
AFSPA has been used in these regions for thousands of deaths, custodial deaths/rape, torture, encirclement of the civilian population, sadistic combing operations, looting of private citizen’s property, etc. Thousands of youth have simply disappeared – another euphemism for encounter deaths.
Draconian laws are antithetical to modern democracy since they overturn the fundamental tenets of modern jurisprudence on which democracy rests, viz., a person is presumed to be innocent till proven guilty. The act empowers the investigating agencies to easily frame a person whom they suspect to be guilty. The AFSPA gives the armed forces wide powers to shoot, arrest and search all in the name of aiding civil power. It was first applied to the north-eastern states of Assam and Manipur, and was amended in 1972 to extend to all the seven states in the north-eastern region of India. They are Assam, Manipur, Tripura, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Nagaland, also known as the ‘Seven Sisters’. The enforcement of the AFSPA has resulted in innumerable incidents of arbitrary detention, torture, rape and looting by security personnel.
After the transfer of power in 1947, the Indian ruling classes enacted draconian laws like AFSPA for the neocolonial exploitation and to suppress the aspirations of democracy and national liberation in North-East. Since two decades, it has been imposed in Kashmir, resulting in thousands of extrajudicial murders, torture, rapes and custodial killings. Kashmiris d just disappear from homes or work places never to return.
The discovery of secret grave yards may have answers to the mystery of disappearances.
The existence of extremely draconian acts like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA), The Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), Chhattisgarh Special Public Security Act , National Security Act, and various provisions in the penal code like ‘sedition’ make a mockery of the claims of liberal democratic character of the Indian state. These claims are equally fraudulent and hilarious as the proclamations are made by the representations of the Indian ruling classes in forums like the United Nations, G20, World Economic Forum, etc. The propaganda machines for the neo-liberal exploitation parade India as the largest democracy and an emerging economic power-house. While the fact that more than 77% of the population lives a sub-human existence of 20 rupees a day, the trampling of the human rights of the poor and downtrodden, underprivileged, national ethnic and religious minorities with impunity is the order of the day.
In order to control people demanding their legitimate rights Indian government has unleashed extra military laws that empower the military establishment and make forces the defacto rulers of India. Common people suffer as they are not the real empowerment beneficiaries. Not only protests are opposed but even freedom of speech is curtailed significantly by military act. .
In a landmark judgment, the Supreme Court has struck down section 66A on the basis that it is ‘unconstitutional and untenable’ and it is a huge victory for free speech advocates everywhere.. The apex court has also said that the act was too vague and that it cannot be properly implemented as governments come and go.
The court had said that the act violated section 19(a) of the constitution which constitutes the right to free speech, and threatens the right of the people to question and defend. The court also said it affected the right of the people to know.
What does section 66A of the IT act actually say?
“Any person who sends, by means of a computer resource or a communication device,—
(a) any information that is grossly offensive or has menacing character; or (b) any information which he knows to be false, but for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will, persistently by making use of such computer resource or a communication device, (c) any electronic mail or electronic mail message for the purpose of causing annoyance or inconvenience or to deceive or to mislead the addressee or recipient about the origin of such messages, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and with fine.”
One of the main problems with the act is the fact that it is framed in vague and sweeping language, which allows law enforcement authorities to interpret it in a subjective manner. What, for instance is information that is ‘grossly offensive’ and has menacing character’? If someone were pro-life, for instance, they may find an email forward endorsing abortion ‘grossly offensive’.
Similarly, if someone were a religious purist who believed God created the world in seven days, they may find a status update on evolution to be ‘false information’. By making the act so open ended and subjective, the government is trying to save itself the trouble of having to define each and every cyber crime, but what they have overlooked or ignored is that in its present form, the act also easily lends itself to prosecuting people who dare to have and express a controversial or different opinion that may not necessarily be dangerous. This issue was also brought up by the Supreme Court while it was hearing the petitions against the act.
Terming the debate on revocation of AFSPA “uncalled for” and politically motivated, BJP’s JK spokesperson Khan said nothing should be done that hampers anti-insurgency operations in the state and undermines the resolve of the security forces to maintain internal and external security. Khan, while explaining the issue, said that Disturbed Area Act (DAA) 1997, which is under discussion has no relevance with the continuation of AFSPA in JK state, argued the AFSPA is a self-contained Act, which came into being in JK in September 1990 with retrospective effect from July 1990, while the said DAA was not even born on the statute Books of the state. “Any notification under AFSPA regarding denotification of any area of the state has to be issued by the Governor or Government of India,” he said.
AFSPA cannot be a permanent military feature in India. It is high time Indian parliament debated the notorious IPL fixings and AFSPA traps in India. UN cannot sit quiet as regimes impose draconian laws on people, crippling their basic rights.
A government that looks at its people as the main problem has no legitimacy to rule.