AFSPA in Kashmir is a go to argument for the Islamic fundamentalists, the pseudo liberals and the pseudo seculars. The same which is an apparently peculiar provision in Jammu and Kashmir because of the state’s volatile character is often projected as anti liberalism and gross abuse of the Constitution even though the Constitutional validity of the Act has been upheld by the apex court.
The NIT Srinagar episode was an indicator of rising insurgency and hostility in Kashmir (which obviously has been always on the rise). It was a sorry tale of how the citizens of our own country were denied the liberty of hoisting the National Flag in their very own motherland and were also lathi charged and are in process of being accused of serious offences, their crime being showcase of Nationalism. That being said, the NIT episode is the very reason why the AFSPA should continue to be in operation in Kashmir. The article thus focuses on how this incident is a signal for continuation in AFSPA apart from other technicalities.
NIT Srinagar is only an illustration; the Kashmiri locals have achieved dubious feats of stoning their own Police officials, Paramilitary and Army troops. Kashmir has unfortunately become a set of population (of course with a part of population being innocent) which holds the hands of an Army jawan when faced with mighty floods and calls that same jawan a ‘rapist’ in times of peace. We spend massive funds on the development of Kashmir, an average Kashmiri youth gets employment in the rest of India. A Kashmiri student can be found in any and every University of India and let me assure you subject to a few exceptions they are treated as any other Indian. Given all this, an average Indian student, though I am abashed to use such terminology the locals have forced me to make a sinful classification between ‘Kashmiri’ and ‘Indian’, faces inhuman treatment in Kashmir and his Constitutional entitlement gets abused on a daily basis, the NIT episode is a mere testimony to the same. Not only this, an Indian faces insult every day when the Kashmiri locals exalt the status of a ‘coward’ Afzal Guru or any other terrorist for that matter to that of a ‘martyr’. The recent instances of disruption in encounters by the locals only suggests that insurgency has crept deeply into Kashmir and what we are witnessing is some sort of a hybrid war which cannot be tackled by the Police and with ordinary law.
That being said, how can we except our Army and Paramilitary troops to handle such a hostile people and at the same time comply with set principles of criminal procedure.
AFSPA may be an evil but in the case of Kashmir it is a necessary evil.
Incompetent and hostile Police:
Who are recruited in the State Police? The locals. What is the nature of locals? As we just observed, extremely hostile. The Police itself is a set of hostile locals and even if not hostile then at least useless and by its very own composition incompetent of taking action against the hostile locals. How can we in such a situation believe that the State Police will fight out terrorism in Kashmir and in fact protect the non Kashmiris from the hostile locals and the militants.
All that the Jammu & Kashmir Police did after whatever happened in NIT was lathi charging those who were raising their voice against the anti National elements and lodging FIRs for no reason against the innocent students. The Police cannot protect the non locals from the militant elements in Kashmir and in fact the non locals have to be protected from an incompetent hostile State Police.
Only Army can handle a hybrid war
Very often, the pseudo liberals raise a question, why Army, why not the Paramilitary Forces. The answer is quite simple, the Paramilitary Forces have actually been deployed in Kashmir but the intensity of insurgency is of such a high level in Kashmir and its strategic location is such that we have to have Army deployment, especially in the ultra sensitive areas. The Paramilitary Forces can at best given their operational capacities play a supportive role while the Army wipes out terrorism and keeps the ‘insurgent locals’ under control.
The idea is not to undermine the contribution of CRPF or for that any Paramilitary Force in Kashmir but the fact remains that the role of a Paramilitary Force is to handle the borders or at best light insurgency but not a hybrid war that has pervasive influence among the masses in a State.
The AFSPA is justified because of the facts that even after several years of its operation, we have not been able to wipe out terrorism from Kashmir. This calls for continuation of AFSPA. As far as human rights are concerned, the target of AFSPA is the terrorists who should not anyway expect human treatment. The NIT episode was a testimony of how a failed State Police system coupled with a highly hostile and religiously doctored population of Kahmir (specifically after 1989 genocide) could have possible lead to Kahmiri Pandit genocide 2.0. In order to prevent such mayhem, the AFSPA has to remain in force.