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AFSPA: A state of myopia

The faint hopes that an overdue political debate on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in the offing ~ generated by its partial relaxation in nine districts of Arunachal Pradesh ~ have been dashed.

Editorial | New Delhi |

The faint hopes that an overdue political debate on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) was in the offing ~ generated by its partial relaxation in nine districts of Arunachal Pradesh ~ have been dashed.

It is not easy to determine the precise reason for that: had the ruling party at the Centre not been overly obsessed with military muscle proving the solution to all problems, that relaxation might have been perceived as some kind of an outreach to a small section of a vast number of people in the North-east who have long resented the draconian law enacted under vastly different circumstances in 1956.

So maybe it was the Congress’ election manifesto promising to “review” the legislation that prompted the government to go on the offensive, and yet again accuse the main Opposition party of trying to enfeeble the military.

The end-result is that carcinogenic politics have clouded what ought to have been a debate of national concern. The real “sufferers”, alas, being the people of the North-east who are subjected to unwarranted oppression and denial of basic human rights.

Unfortunately, despite claims to the contrary, the interests of the people of the region do not count for much during a Lok Sabha poll ~ the NDA will not deviate from its tough line, even though Pakistan does not figure prominently in the political calculus of the region. Just as disgusting, and horribly hypocritical, is the Congress’ electoral promise of an AFSPA review ~ not a dilution insists the former home minister, P Chidambaram, who had a long enough tenure in North Block but never attempted to address the AFSPA issue.

Do he and Rahul Gandhi deem the people of the North-east such simpletons as not to see through their cheap trick? Worse, who extended AFSPA to Jammu and Kashmir? Chidambaram’s sophistry is unlimited, surely he was aware of AFSPA being universally condemned, and the Justice Jeevan Reddy Commission’s call to junk the obsolete law.

It is so easy to pontificate, offer fantastic solutions when not wielding authority. Also there is the UPA’s backing off from using legitimate power ~ even after the massacre in Mumbai. Back to muscle and the BJP. The decision to shut down the highway to Srinagar on two days in the week and reserve the roadway for the security forces is an admission of failure, as exposed by another car-bomber getting dangerously close to a CRPF vehicle. That is akin to wanting to impose a curfew in all “uncomfortable” areas.

The local political parties have condemned the move, pointing to its impact on normal life. The militants and their supporters might actually applaud the decision ~ there is no risk of collateral damage when striking against a convoy. And it does send out a signal to the world at large that New Delhi “retains” the Valley mainly by military force.