Vishal Bhardwaj’s movie Haider, which had Kashmir’s unrest as its backdrop, was in many controversies due to its plot and plot elements. One of the main contentious points raised in the film that in turn raised eyebrows was showing AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act) in an extreme negative shade comparing it to the Hebrew expression Chutzpah (impudence, audacity, insolence). The film portrays as if AFSPA is the main culprit in making Kashmiris’ lives a living hell.
AFSPA is a special act passed by the Indian Parliament to give special rights to the Indian Armed Forces deployed in disturbed areas and is in force in the North-East states and Jammu & Kashmir. AFSPA has been in controversies as it is alleged that the armed forces misuse the special powers given under the act and indulge in acts of human rights violation and barbarism. Even the Supreme Court has shown displeasure on reports of human rights violations in the name of AFSPA and has asked the government that why ‘those’ disturbed areas are still ‘disturbed’ even if AFSPA is in force for over decades now.
AFSPA is Chutzpah for such controversies. But terror strikes like Uri tells us why the armed forces vehemently oppose any attempt to remove or dilute AFSPA from Kashmir.
And figures support it.
Early morning today, terrorists attacked an army installation in Uri in J&K. The cowardly attack that targeted sleeping soldiers left 17 dead. According to the SATP data (South Asia Terrorism Portal), 61 Indian soldiers have been killed in terror strike this year alone while the figure for terrorists stands at 115 – that means we are losing one soldier for every two terrorists killed. And our soldiers are sacrificing their lives in saving those Kashmiris who call AFSPA Chutzpah or use other derogatory words, or wave the Pakistani flag or hurl abuses at India. No matter how big a terror strike is, we never hear tough, strong words against Pakistan from J&K leaders and political parties – be it today’s Uri attack or 2002’s Kaluchak massacre which had left 36 people killed including the security forces personnel or the countless other terror strikes in the state which have killed thousands of Indian soldiers.
It is being circulated on Pakistan’s social media platforms that India’s itself has carried out this attack to divert the global attention from the ongoing unrest in Kashmir and to present itself as a victim in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). The UNGA is in session and the Annual General Debate is slated to begin on September 20. It is also being propagandized that since Kashmir has heavy presence of armed forces due to the ongoing phase of unrest, it is impossible for foreign terrorists to reach any army camp inside Kashmir to carry out attack. Tomorrow, Pakistan will sing the same chorus.
But the Indian Army’s insistence on AFSPA lies in these very elements.
And the core of these elements is the local support that terrorism enjoys in Kashmir. A section of the kashmiri population, that scavenges on the Pakistani propaganda, and though survives on the Indian soil and its support, shamelessly sings the Pakistani tune. J&K separatists and terrorists like Syed Salahuddin are well known but what about them who remain anonymous and get mixed the general population? Indian Armed Forces are present in almost every part of the Valley but they do not know from where the next attack would come or which house has sheltered terrorists. Crowds of thousands in funerals of terrorists prove the local support and you are always in two minds when it comes to trust the next fellow. Due to the heightened security apparatus, cross-border infiltration has seen a remarkable decline, yet, if the ongoing phase of unrest is in its 74th day, its shows it is fuelled by some local base.
India Army and other security forces have to act in these adverse, dilemma-ridden circumstances where its enemy can pop up from any house or any corner of the street. And if the armed forces demand AFSPA to tackle this, this is completely logical. And about the misuse of AFSPA – our apex court has already taken cognizance of it. Yes, AFSPA can be removed or diluted from the North-Eastern states as barring few instances, most have been relatively peaceful, and a simple armed forces presence now can handle the situation. But removing AFSPA from the Kashmir of the day will not serve any purpose. It, in fact, can destabilize the situation even more when you don’t know who your enemy is. Yes, but we should seriously act on the concerns raised on misuses and abuses of AFSPA and should see what changes this decades old act needs to make it in sync with the times now. Some action has been taken and some punishments have been delivered in some cases of human rights violations in Kashmir, but we need to set example by taking stringent measures and exemplary punishments.
Life may not have room for ‘trials and errors’ but nation building policies solely depend on them.