Saturday, July 25, 2015

Abrogate "widely misused" armed forces special powers Act: New York Times editorial to Narendra Modi

By Our Representative
In a scathing critique of India’s Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which came in for sharp criticism recently from Amnesty International in its detailed report on how it is being widely misused in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the New York Times (NYT) has editorially asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to abrogate it immediately.
Titled “End Abuses by the Indian Military”, the editorial of one of the world’s most influential dailies, says, “Since 1958, AFSPA has fostered a culture of impunity among India’s armed forces that has led to repeated, documented human rights abuses against Indian civilians in designated ‘disturbed areas’.”
Referring to Amnesty International report, it adds, “In the wake of fresh calls to repeal the law, it’s time for the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to do what prior governments have not: stand up to India’s military, which has long resisted any modification of the act — and move to have AFSPA repealed.”
Giving background the Act, the editorial says, “The law was enacted to fight a separatist insurgency in Nagaland and was later applied to restive areas in several states in the northeast. In 1990, a version of the act was applied to the state of J&K. Rather than help quell revolt, AFSPA has hardened resentments against a military that has too often abused the extraordinary powers conferred by the Act.”
The NYT says, “The Act, which can be activated by the federal government or the states, gives soldiers wide powers to kill, arrest, search and detain. It also grants them civil immunity from prosecution and punishment.”
The paper adds, “India’s army, which is empowered to try soldiers in military courts for crimes against civilians, has rarely done so. The result is a shocking incidence of rapes, murders, torture, summary detention and disappearances of civilians in areas where the law applies.”
“This month”, the editorial says, “Amnesty International published a damning report on abuses in J&K, and called again for an end to the law. Indian legal authorities and human rights groups, as well as international groups and the United Nations, have urged repeal.”
NYT recalls, “In 2005, following the rape and murder of a woman in Manipur, a government-appointed committee said the law should be amended or replaced ‘in consonance with the obligations of the government towards protection of Human Rights’.” Then, “In 2008, Human Rights Watch published a major report on AFSPA calling for repeal.”
The paper adds, “In 2012, the United Nations said the act ‘clearly violates international law’. The year after, a former chief justice of India, JS Verma, chairman of a committee charged with reviewing Indian law after the brutal rape of a student in New Delhi, said there was an ‘imminent need’ to assess continued use of the law.”
Advising the Modi government “not wait to act”, the daily praises Tripura, whose federal government in May repealed AFSPA, saying it was no longer necessary. Even the Peoples Democratic Party, which governs J&K in alliance with the BJP, is calling for repealing it, the paper adds.

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