Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Waliullah Ahmed Laskar

Fasting and sit-in demonstration in front of
administrative  headquarters of Cachar at Silchar,
Assam demanding scraping of AFSPA
on 5th November, 2011 
Barak valley, the southern part of Assam comprising of Cachar, Hailakandi and Karimganj districts has also been declared as "disturbed area" under the anti-justice draconian piece of legislation titled the Armed Forces (Special Power) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) and as a result the members of the armed forces have been given the power to use lethal force against civilians even to the causing of death on mere suspicion that they may act in breach of any law or any order along with the power to enter into any doweling places by breaking their entrance and search and seize anything without warrant and arrest any person without warrant and keep the arrestees in custody for unspecified times without charge in the valley along with the rest of Assam and parts of some other North East Indian states and Jammu and Kashmir. AFSPA also places the army above the law, constitution and judiciary for acts claimed to be done under the Act by barring institution of prosecution, suits or any judicial procedure in any court in India. The Act is in force in parts of North East India since 1958 and in Jammu and Kshmir since 1990.

Many say AFSPA is not an instrument of law and order; rather it is a declaration of war by India against some sections of its own people. The government of India and now particularly the army say that this empowerment to kill and torture the civilians and blanket immunity is needed to protect national integrity and national security by fighting insurgents and rebels. The government of India said that it was an extra-ordinary measure to meet an extra-ordinary situation and hence it was temporary. But, after 53 years it still continues in North East and it is in force in Jammu and Kashmir for 21 years. Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare recently remarked that if we were not able to lift AFSPA from some parts then what we were doing these 20 years. He said it while backing Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's move to lift the Act from some parts of his state.

Barak valley is in a way a separate unit in North East India geographically, ethnically, culturally and linguistically. More than 80% people are Bengali and Hindi speaking Hindus and Muslims. People of the rest of North East India belonging to various tribes do not readily accept people of Barak valley as their own. Simply because ethnically, linguistically and culturally the people of Barak valley are more like people of the rest of India. For law and order and other related purposes it can also be treated as a unit.

Nor there has ever been any armed rebellions or insurgencies in Barak valley against the state of India or any governments in India established by law since independence, neither any armed rebel or insurgent organisations ever formed and worked in the valley for its "independence from India" or separate statehood within India.

I am not denying the existence of one or two small organised groups of criminals in the valley. But the general public view them as groups of mercenaries nurtured by politicians to use them against their opponents and social activists who raise voice against corruption and oppression of the people by those politicians. This is a pure law and order problem and does not in any way amount to public disorder or a condition that is envisaged in the Naga Peoples' Movement for Human Rights case by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court envisaged a condition of the disturbance of public order which falls short of the "armed rebellion" within the meaning of Article 352 of the Constitution of India calling for proclamation of emergency but exceeds the limit "law and order" problem. There has never been such disturbance of public order in Barak valley. the valley was once dubbed by Indira Gandhi, a former prime minister of India, "Island of  Peace".

Investigations by human rights groups have also shown that these groups have some sort of nexus with para-military and the army at some level. But if asked the governments and the army will show you some cases where they nabbed some people with illegal fire arms and explosives or where they killed some alleged insurgents or terrorists in encounters. But investigations by human rights groups in some of such cases also show that most of these cases are false and the alleged insurgents or terrorists are innocent victims. These investigations reveal that in most of the cases politicians use the army or paramilitary forces to eliminate their opponents or inconvenient social activists or to teach them some lessons. There came out some cases where businessmen or otherwise wealthy and influential people also use the forces like politicians against their rivals. The forces teach the intended people by raiding their houses mid-night, mercilessly beating up everybody in the raided house including aged persons, pregnant women and children and in some cases they also molest and rape minor and teenage girls, by arresting and detaining the intended persons for days in their custody where they subject such people to torture and other cruel treatment including electric shocks and water boarding etc, some succumb to these treatment and some are framed with false charges of keeping firearms and explosives illegally or letter or letter head of some little known armed outfit which are planted by the raiding forces before or at the time of raid and then discovered by them. This is in addition to the fake encounter killings. The forces do it for a few thousands of bucks because it also gives them chances of earning accolades, medals and promotions as well as it justifies continued militarization of policing and governance through the AFSPA.

Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah has been talking of de-notifying some areas of the state which was notified as disturbed areas under the Act (known as withdrawal or lifting AFSPA) for some days. He is backed by his father and Union Minister Faruk Abdullah, Union Minister for Health and Family Welfare Gulam Nabi Azad and most importantly by Union Minister for Home Affairs P Chidambaram, although the proposal is opposed by the army and Union Defence Ministry. But, nobody ever talked of lifting AFSPA from Barak valley. IS BARAK VALLEY MORE INSURGENCY-AFFECTED THAN JAMMU AND KASHMIR?

(There are so many other reasons of not only lifting AFSPA from certain areas but also entirely deleting the law from the statute book, which I discussed elsewhere)

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