Citing a damning report they have prepared, the Amnesty International has called for the immediate repeal of the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir.

The 77-page report says that the Army personnel accused of abusing fundamental rights of J&K residents have never been tried in civilian courts. The report listed out several cases where AFSPA made it impossible to book Army personnel involved in incidents of serious human rights violations.

However, experts are of the opinion that the report put together of the rights group may not be able to move the ruling PDP-BJP alliance in the state to overturn AFSPA.

Curiously enough, when PDP forged an alliance with the BJP, one of its extensively publicized agendas was the removal of AFSPA from the areas of Jammu and Kashmir which had not seen too many disturbances recently. The allies had even promised to begin de-notifying areas marked ‘disturbed’ to pave the way for AFSPA to get revoked.

Five months after the government assumed office, there is no headway on the issue. While PDP has preferred to maintain silence over the issue, the BJP’s state leadership has vociferously opposed the idea of repealing AFSPA. The withdrawal of the act from places which have witnessed very little violence in the recent times has also become a very remote possibility. Home minister Rajnath Singh, during is recent two-day visit, declared that the Act will only be removed when the situation is ‘conducive’. However, he didn’t explain what exactly would be a ‘conducive’ situation.

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.

Image used for representational purposes only. AFP.

“I want to say that the situation should be such that AFSPA should not be needed anywhere in the country,” Singh told reporters after paying obeisance at the Amarnath cave shrine in south Kashmir. Hinting at the Army without naming it, Singh said the all stakeholders in the issue will have to cooperate and agree in order to get AFSPA permanently revoked.

“When will Kashmir have an atmosphere that will convince the government to repeal AFSPA? Even if one wing of the state advocates for removal of the Act (AFSPA), another blocks it. The political class doesn’t want to resolutely act against it because it provides cover for a lot of human rights offenders who may be close to them,” human rights activist Khurram Pervez told Firstpost.

The civil society in Kashmir seems to have given up on the hope that the Act will be repealed. Their efforts have yielded little result and have largely gone unnoticed in the corridors of power in New Delhi.

“Amnesty’s report doesn’t ask for independence for Kashmir. It asks the armed forces to be made accountable. However, the media and general public in the country have largely ignored the report. The victims mentioned in the report may never get justice and New Delhi will never repeal AFSPA to keep its iron fist on the state intact, ” Ifra Bhat, a student of International relations in Srinagar, says.

In Kashmir, the notification to enact the AFSPA was issued by the governor of Jammu and Kashmir twice — once in 1990 and then in 2001 — declaring the entire State of Jammu and Kashmir, excluding the Ladakh districts of Leh and Kargil, as ‘Disturbed Area’ . This law was initially named the Armed Forces (Jammu and Kashmir) Special Powers Act, 1990. It came into force on July 5, 1990.

“Majority of the people in Kashmir valley want the act to go. But, more than any else, what would be needed is a strong political will and coordination between Centre and state leadership and a [real] impulse of the ground reality,” Noor Mohammad Baba, head of Political Science department at the Central University of Kashmir, says.

“The problems is that while in power a former home minister says the Act is necessary but when he is in opposition, he says the law has no place in civilised society,” says Baba.

National Conference General Secretary, Ali Mohammad Sagar, says that although he is optimistic about the repeal of the act but he blames the ruling BJP-PDP coalition for the delay. “PDP talked about repealing the act, only because it wanted votes,” says Sagar.

However, the PDP says it has not left the demand for the removal of the act from some places, saying the laws like these have no place in a democratic setup where people have chosen democracy over military rule. “There is need for its partial withdrawal to strengthen the confidence of people in the functioning of democracy. We are clear that ultimately this law has to go, in a step-wise manner,” PDP’s chief spokesperson, Dr Mehboob Beg, says.

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Amnesty report says AFSPA shields human rights violators: Jammu’s PDP-BJP govt won’t scrap it soon