By Greg Donaldson
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia
NEW DEHLI, India – Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced on Friday that the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) will be removed in some of the areas of Jammu and Kashmir in the following days.
Abdullah explained that many of the areas in the state have become peaceful enough to permit the change. The law has been despised for years and has been the subject of much protest.
The AFSPA was enacted in 1958 as an emergency measure to protect the country from a small rebellion in the northeast part of the country. Since the AFSPA’s enactment many have called for its repel claiming it results in the military committing major human rights violations.
After a woman died in military custody in 2004, a violent protest broke out demanding the AFSPA be revoked. The Prime Minister set up a judicial committee to review the law but no change was made to it even though the committee recommended the AFSPA be exchanged for a more “humane law.”
The AFSPA grants the military the ability to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without a warrant, and to detain people without time limits.
Security officers cannot be prosecuted without special approval from the central government. Even in cases of alleged rape or murder it is rare for governmental approval to be given to prosecute an officer.
Critics of the law claim that this blanket authority given to the military has resulted in torture and poor treatment to citizens throughout the country. This summer thousands of unidentified bodies were discovered in mass graves in Jammu and Kashmir lending support to critic’s claims.
The Khaleej Times quotes an “official” who explained that as AFSPA is removed from part of the state (Jammu and Kashmir) the practice will be gradually continued to other parts of the country, pending the security situation.
While most of the country is thrilled at the prospect of the AFSPA being phased out, the Army and the Defense Ministry are not. Military officials have already declared that the areas the minister has assigned as “peaceful” could be reclassified as “disturbed” if violence occurs which would led to the revival of the AFSPA in those areas.
The Military claims that terrorist threats still exist in those regions, however, defense ministry officials have declared the decision of Chief Minister Abdullah will be respected and followed.
For more information, please see:
Khaleej Times – Anti-Terror Laws to be Relaxed in J&K: Omar – 22 October 2011
Times of India – Army Still Opposed to Withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from J&K – 22 October 2011
New York Times – Kashmir to Lift Reviled Security Law – 21 October 2011
Human Rights Watch – India: Repeal Armed Forces Special Powers Act – 19 October 2011