Instrument of policy
It has been a while since I updated my blog! Hmm! strangely enough when I have more time on hand, I seem to do less of everything. Anyway! I figured it is time I scribble in here.
Off late, it seems to be more difficult to talk about very generic topics. I want to think that it perhaps has to do with the idea that I am specializing in some domain. I mean, it seems I have very little information about a lot of the topics that I am interested in. Almost always, I have thought that I am a jack of many trades and master of none. But like that famous quote "try to learn something about everything and everything about something", I am trying to be master of one; at least I hope I will be able to call myself that some day in near future.
Anyway, today I thought I will document my comments on AFSPA or the Armed Forces Special Powers Act. A very old act, I think it was originally enacted in 1948, mostly to allow the Union of India to control possible oppression in some parts of North East and to avoid neighboring countries trying to cause problems! And then it was extended to J&K in the 90's. Anyway, from what I have gathered it seems that the law basically allows the military to take control of a "situation" without having to go through the regular Indian Penal Code (IPC) or Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) procedures like an "arrest warrant", "search warrant", "permission to fire with only reasonable suspicion without having to seek orders from the command chain", etc., as if they are fighting a war.
The details of the act and its enforcement are not my specialty and I will not make an attempt to that end either. Nonetheless, I feel it is important that I (rather we, Indians) make some attempt to see what an Indian state is going through, why has it come to that situation and what are the implications. I don't think I will ever know what the ground situation in J&K is or any other "disturbed area".
But I will be really pissed if any LEOs (Law Enforcement Officials) stops me at every intersection, particularly when I just mean my business. Then how can I even imagine what it is is for the people in J&K who are asked to live in an "war-like" area; when there is every restriction and fundamental rights (some rights) are snatched away in the name of the security. And then there are these cases of the incredibly foolish people in an otherwise professional institute of the finest set of people doing incredibly foolish acts of heinous crimes.
I was watching this NDTV show called the "We, The People". In the show, some representatives of the different parties involved like the State Govt. of J&K, the Central Govt. of India, the Indian Army, human rights' activists, etc., where brought to a single forum. It was a good program but I felt it lacked perspective. I felt it did not cover the whole equation. There was the military people who said it is almost necessary to have such special powers to deal with enemies you don't know! Which perhaps has some merit to it. We cannot expect a police officer to stick to speed limit to catch an over-speeding car, can we now? If it interests you, watch
There were other shows that talked about how and why the involved parties putting forth the argument that they have. And then for a minute, I wondered who gets to decide if the act has to be repealed! Or what decides if the law has to be repealed! Is it the statistics(just numbers), the legality of who has more political power? - the State or Central Govt., the opinion of the army (the people who actually achieve the numbers and the political goals), the intelligence community, the issue of human rights and liberty, oh yeah, the long-term piece and normalcy??
This reminded me of this dialogue of Top-Gun,
So, what is the problem if the Govt. wants to change the policy? And I started to think, why did this non-issue suddenly become such a big one? I mean, J&K State Govt. or Police certainly cannot deal with the situation on their own; that it would not want the army to leave or reduce its visibility! no, they cannot. The army cannot afford to make a good job of safe-guarding the borders if there are invisible enemy inside the border, that is too dangerous a situation! And how about human rights activists? Well, I think they have not been heard ever! ever! If they were, all the human rights violation cases would have been dealt with transparently and not dealt "with-in the army".
So then, is the a compromise? I have come to think that it is a compromise! It always is. There is always a trade-off between what is needs to be done and what can be done! I mean, the normalcy and peace in J&K is something that needs to be done, there will be some cost associated with it. Somebody has to take that chance and give it a shot! Nobody knows for sure if it will work or make it any better. And I think it is a matter of policy to decide if army needs to stay or go! If army was called in by the Govt., army leaves when the Govt. asks it to; after-all it is an instrument of that policy. Having said that, the policy in itself needs to be firmly grounded in the available information, that includes the quantitative statistics and qualitative "feel good factor". But in the current debate, it seems that the non-issue has become a major argument, because last State election in J&K happened in 2008 approximately 4 years ago; which means an assembly election is just around the corner in the State!