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10th June '2013
“Azadi” not AFSPA

For some time past a lot of noise is being made by all concerned from both the political streams in Kashmir for the revocation of the draconian legislation AFSPA. The campaign is being mounted in such a way that there is a feeling as if the ultimate demand of a Kashmiri is the revocation of AFSPA. It is only one of the totalitarian laws on the statute book for not only depriving the common people of their fundamental rights but for giving protection to the perpetrators of the wrongs in the interest of national security. Apart from AFSPA, there are numerous other laws which are completely totalitarian in nature.

There is no doubt that the massive security apparatus in place in Kashmir is really stifling and chokes the common people. However, the revocation of the draconian legislation is not going to make the clamp down disappear overnight as the feeling is being created. It will only bring in the perpetrators under the gambit of normal laws for any excesses they commit. However, AFSPA is not the only draconian legislation in force in J & K. The worst law for the local people is Public Safety Act under which a person can be detained without any trial for years together. The Police use a revolving door policy to continue the detention after the expiry of the earlier order. Then there is the Disturbed Areas Act which again has been imposed by the state government. It is only because of an area being declared disturbed that the AFSPA comes into force there.

There is dichotomy in regard to the revocation of AFSPA. On one hand it is claimed that Kashmir is under the illegal occupation of India. If that be so, then there should be no complaint against AFSPA or any other draconian legislation as the occupying power will use everything under the sun to keep its hold on the territory. The people demanding “Azadi” or freedom do not seem to comprehend its full meaning. The very demand for freedom precludes that the people raising the same accept that they are not free and are under occupation. They have to decide whether they want more freedom in the existing set up or they want to be absolutely free on their own by ending their present status as part of India or Pakistan. If the choice is the latter, then to achieve absolute freedom they have to go through all the trials and tribulations. AFSPA or PSA are no issues.

In the alternative, the real relief will only come when all the acts and not only AFSPA are revoked and the very strict and virtually choking security clamp down is totally dismantled and brought back to the level before the eruption of turmoil. Such a step could bring some temporary relaxation allowing people to breathe more freely. However, that breather would not be the permanent and the final solution of the political problem but the relief from security strangulation could possibly create an atmosphere to lessen the sufferings of the common people. Final solution will have to be evolved by a general consensus if it is meant to be a permanent one!

The authorities at the helm have also to understand the fact that the revocation of these draconian legislations are not going to solve the main political problem but these would afford the much sought after relief to the people. In fact, it is often pointed out by some politicians including the Chief Minister that the Army is the main hurdle in revocation of the legislation called the AFSPA. He very conveniently forgets PSA! By saying this they are abdicating their political responsibility to the common people under the constitution. It is true that the Army top brass has been opposing the revocation of the legislation partially or completely for what they call the operational reasons. Sometime back the General posted in Srinagar had said in a press statement that if AFSPA is revoked then Kashmir may have to be given “Azadi” in 2016. In fact, the General was speaking the truth about the ground situation for the handling of which the Army needs extra-constitutional powers.

Unfortunately, most of the mainstream politicians in Srinagar and the rulers in Delhi are trying to runway from the actual ground situation of total alienation of the people from the Indian mainstream. The authorities must face the stark truth that Kashmiris have neither given up their basic demand for the right of self-determination nor have they reconciled to status quo in spite of being willingly or unwillingly a part of the Indian Union for last 65 years or so! The debate should not be whether AFSPA should go fully or partially but how one can resolve the basic political issue hanging for last 65 years? The removal of security clamp down and revocation of the totalitarian legislations, both the central and the state ones is the first step and not the ultimate end.

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