The Armed forces Special Powers Act which was enacted by the Parliament on 11th September 1958 is a replacement of the four ordinances issued by the Government of India in 1947 designed to be a temporary statute initially enacted for a period of one year but retained till 1957, the ordinances being: 1) The Bengal Disturbed Areas ( Special Powers of the Armed Forces), 2) Assam Disturbed Areas ( Special Powers of the Armed Forces), 3)East Punjab & Delhi Disturbed Areas ( Special Powers of the Armed Forces) and 4) United Provinces Disturbed Areas ( Special Powers of the Armed Forces). The present act was extended to the State of Jammu & Kashmir in July 1990 as the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Powers Act 1990. Ever since, countless experts have expressed their views and on the technicalities of this very act, not to mention the plethora of debates and discussions being carried out. However, in all these years of these so called experts reviewing and analyzing the pros and cons of the act, ensconced as they are in the comforts of their couches, have failed to address the one vital point which should have been the focal point- the human factor. Despite more than six decades of implementation of the act, armed insurgents and extremist organizations have not let up in their activities- on the contrary, the entire region of North-East India and the State of Jammu & Kashmir are proving to be a very fertile breeding ground for them. It is then time for the policy makers to experience the ground realities and admit the mistakes made rather than to press on with an obsolete, outdated and impotent act that only serves to alienate the people of these regions away from mainland India and foment the movement for cessation of Indian authority. What needs to be done is to scrap off this farce of an act and instead work on the human side to bridge the mental and emotional chasm existing between the people of the region and the personals of the armed forces. The fear psychosis developed over the years cannot be erased at the whims of those at the Centre by sugar-coated empty assurances and shows of concern. It will take as long- perhaps longer to for the long tormented people to begin to trust and confide to the various armed forces and paramilitary personals deployed in these regions – how would it feel if the people entrusted to protect one’s freedom and life turns the barrel of their guns to the ones who are supposed to be protected? One needs to sit back and contemplate on this just to get a gist of the matter. Not all youths in Delhi are rapists any more than the inhabitants of the whole of the North-East of India, and that of J&K for that matter, being armed insurgents and extremists. Ironically,the very fear psychosis so successfully created by the armed forces is proving to be the one stumbling block preventing them from getting them anywhere remotely near their proposed objective of controlling and reducing armed insurgency movements in these regions. Presuming all inhabitants as insurgents and law-breakers, and worse- treating them as such cannot be the means to achieve their goal. Understanding the dilemma of these people caught between the high-handed attitude of the armed forces and the mushrooming groups of self-proclaimed harbingers of social changes, and working in harmony and unison with a sense of mutual trust and respect will pave the way out of this quagmire. Till then the vicious cycle of distrust, oppression, rebellion and more confrontations will only spiral up pushing more to take to arms to assert themselves.
Armed Forces Special Powers Act- a push to arms?