12 Mar , 2013
Sanjoy Hazarika1 and Walter Fernandes2 bring out the justifiable opposition to AFSPA felt by people from our northeastern states where it was first imposed in 1958. The provocation for both articles is Mr. P. Chidambaram (PC, hereinafter) stating on February 6, 2013, at the Institute of Defence Studies, that government would like to make AFSPA “more humanitarian”, but accusing the army of being an obstacle to that proposal. Also both writers have focussed on rape offences following the Justice Verma Commission on women’s safety, which opined that a soldier (which means any member of any rank in the three armed forces) committing rape should be tried under the same law as civilians. But both articles contain misconceptions about the law, governance and the army’s functioning notwithstanding that Hazarika (SH) and Fernandes (WF) have wide experience in the northeast and are highly respected.
Chidambaram’s remarks are grossly unfair to the army which cannot respond in the media to state its position on AFSPA.
Targetting the army
PC’s remarks are grossly unfair to the army which cannot respond in the media to state its position on AFSPA. Even though PC is well versed in law, the politician in him appears to have overcome his sense of justice to provide the “accused” opportunity to respond, knowing well that it cannot do so because of legal restraint. Accusing the army of wanting imposition of AFSPA is political chicanery to divert attention from and shift blame for decades of political and administrative failure and corruption through a toxic combination of mal-governance, misgovernance and non-governance in the northeast and Kashmir, that is the primary cause for social disaffection and unarmed and armed militancy in those states. The same irresponsible political-bureaucratic approach, independent of political ideology but surely centred on corruption and sell-out to corporate interests, exacerbates poverty and is responsible for growing militancy in other states of the Indian union. This has even been stated by a high-power committee set up in 2006 by the Planning Commission of India.a Shifting blame to the army is unwise, politically short-sighted and unbecoming of a seasoned politician.