Freny Manecksha

From New Internationalist:Grave Concerns over Security Laws...”

Two days into 2012, a student was killed and two more were injured in a village in North Kashmir when the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) guarding a hydroelectric plant opened fire on protesters, shattering a tenuous peace. In the recent past, (and most noticeably in 2010), students who have come out on to the streets chanting pro-freedom slogans – as part of a struggle for self determination whose roots go back further than Indian independence – have been fired upon and killed. This time, the protesters were merely demanding more electricity on an icy winter day during an acute power shortage. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was quick to declare that the CISF did not come under the ambit of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) – an extraordinary and draconian piece of security legislation – and sought to raise the pitch for partial revocation of the law.

AFSPA was enacted in 1990, ostensibly to fight the insurgency and armed militancy that surfaced in the state of Jammu and Kashmir and in some parts of northeast India. Although the government admits that militancy has significantly reduced in Kashmir, the law has not been revoked. In October last year Abdullah began issuing statements to the effect that AFSPA must be partially revoked.

Trampling human rights

Activists say there are two disturbing aspects of the law that can grossly trample upon fundamental human rights. One is the de jure abrogation of constitutional guarantees – such as the right to life – because of the extraordinary and unbridled powers it bestows on security troops to arrest, detain, destroy property and even kill on the basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’.

The other is the shield of immunity whereby it is not possible to prosecute armed forces, even for the most heinous crimes, without the sanction of the Central Defence Ministry and the Home Ministry. The state of Jammu and Kashmir and the Indian government claim there are provisions within the law for punitive action. In practice, impunity is deeply rooted…. (to read more click the link above)

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