Don’t blame it for Kashmir problems
by Gen (retd) V P Malik
Kashmir is burning. Political leaders from the state, civil and human rightists, even the media will have you believe that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act 1958 (AFSPA) is responsible for this situation and should be revoked or diluted to help resolve the crisis. The Centre, after looking at the situation in a holistic manner and listening to the armed forces’ advice, finds it difficult to decide.
What is the AFSPA? Why is this Act necessary? But first, let me narrate a real situation that took place 20 years ago. In early 1990 I was commanding a division that had troops deployed for counter-insurgency operations in Manipur, Nagaland and a part of Arunachal Pradesh. During the run-up to the Manipur Assembly elections, a political party leader, in order to garner students’ support and votes, made the removal of the AFSPA a major electoral issue. When he won the elections and became the Chief Minister, I went to call on him. I asked him what he planned to do about the AFSPA. He said that in view of the “popular demand”, he would write to the Home Ministry and have it removed from the state. I told the Chief Minister that it was OK with me. I will pull out troops from the 60-odd posts, concentrate them outside Manipur and train them for their primary role of fighting a conventional war.
“But you cannot do that! What will happen to the law and order situation?” he said. I appreciated his concern and told him politely but firmly that I couldn’t help him to maintain that without a proper legal cover. I said: “I cannot have my subordinates hold me responsible for giving them any unlawful command.” Then, very respectfully I stated, “Sir, the best way out is to create conditions in the state wherein the AFSPA is not necessary. If you and the Centre do not consider and declare Manipur state to be a ‘disturbed area’, the AFSPA cannot be applied. Please do not blame the AFSPA for the problems of Manipur. The fact is that despite several elections in the state, we have not been able to create conditions when this Act need not be applied in Manipur. The armed forces cannot create those conditions. These are primarily of political, ethnic and socio-economic nature, under your charge now.”
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