Kashmir: AFSPA and PSA should be reconsidered

If historical facts are revealed, we will be able to understand the ‘Kashmir crisis’ to a great extent and then refuse to accept utter lies that fascist forces continue to unleash

Photo courtesy: Twitter
Photo courtesy: Twitter

Humra Quraishi

The Congress Party’s manifesto, released on Tuesday April 2, has focused on Kashmir and the prevailing ground realities in that region. It comes as some sort of a dim ray of hope that some level of sensitivity would be in place whilst handling the governance in that state. Any responsible government that comes to power has got to focus on the deteriorating mess in Kashmir.

It is also about time that we, the people of this country, are made aware of the details of the situation in Kashmir right from its very special history. If historical facts are revealed, we will be able to understand the ‘Kashmir crisis’ to a great extent and then refuse to accept utter lies that fascist forces continue to unleash.

In fact, just this Tuesday afternoon a needless controversy erupted, rather was made to erupt, as soon as terms like ‘Sadr –e- Riyasat’ and ‘Wazir - e- Azam’ were uttered by National Conference Vice-President, Omar Abdullah. Had we been aware of the historical facts, this wouldn’t have given rise to heated television discussions.

The bitter truth is that relevant facts have not been allowed to come up by vested political interests. The late veteran journalist, Ajit Bhattacharjea, had been at his blatant best, when during the course of an interview he had said to me, “People tend to forget that Jammu and Kashmir cannot be treated like any other state. It acceded to India on October 27, 1947, on the condition of being given internal autonomy. Though Muslims were in a majority, they supported accession and helped Indian troops resist Pakistan. But gradual erosion of the state's autonomy planted the seeds of alienation. Now of course, the situation is messed up and unfortunately, what Pakistan couldn't do in the last so many years, the fascist forces of India have done! "

Volumes should have been published, fitted with the crucial historical facts, so that the haze could have got cleared. It seems rather apparent that successive governments wanted this haze to continue adding to the crisis. I wonder why haven’t any of the historians from Kashmir bothered to put together a book on the state’s history, laced with some very significant turns and twists or at least circulate the already published books, focusing on the history of the state.

For years, I have been reading historian G.M.D Sufi’s two volumes titled -‘Kashir - Being A History of Kashmir, From The Earliest Times To Our Own’ (Capital Publishing House). They carry astonishing details of the varying aspects related to the Kashmir region, right from its initial history to its geographical patterns to its arts and culture. But the volumes end just before the Partition. Of course, historian Sufi is long dead but it’s about time that the Kashir volumes be updated, to the present day, by the present day historians from Kashmir.

The Congress manifesto has also focused on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act and the Disturbed Areas Act in Jammu and Kashmir. It more than relays that these Acts will be reviewed, if not diluted. It reflects at least some level of sensitivity to think in terms of reviewing or diluting these Acts. One must add here that on various earlier occasions too, the Dileep Padgaonkar led interlocutor team had been critical of these Acts and had been recommending their withdrawal from the state. And though one can write endlessly on the rights’ violations in the State, the crux of the matter lies in this basic reality - the ongoing violence unleashed on the civilians is accelerating because of the impunity provided to the forces under AFSPA.

It wouldn’t be amiss to say that AFSPA has ruined the lives of hundreds of the young and old-- just about anyone can be targeted. If you know the details of what this dreaded Act stands for, you would be able to grasp its destroying power - After all, AFSPA which was initially enacted in 1958 (amid the Naga insurgency,) gives powers to the army and state and central police forces to shoot to kill, search houses and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents in areas declared as “disturbed” by the Home Ministry. The security forces can “arrest without warrant” a person, who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence” even on “reasonable suspicion”. It also protects them from legal processes for actions taken under the act.

Confusing statements were given in last few years. On one hand the then Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had stated that this Act could not be revoked from Jammu and Kashmir, and on the other hand, had also stated that “presence of around 250 militants in the state was a change in the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir.” If the number of militants was dwindling in that state, then why the presence of the huge military force and laws like AFSPA were required in the state?

If only one were to travel to the Kashmir Valley and see the actual havoc being done on the human front, the need for demilitarisation will definitely be realised. There has been one incident after another where the lives of hundreds of innocents have been ruined in the most ruthless way.

In fact, any responsible government coming to power will have to focus on the young generation of the Kashmiris and should definitely consider releasing immediately, all first time offenders, school children and minors arrested under PSA. Yes, the very first step by any of those manning the state should be to reach out to the young. As this generation of the Kashmiris has never seen a day of peace. Their lives and hopes, dreams and aspirations lie shattered and till there’s no reaching out to them, no peace can prevail.

Also, those in the very governance should dwell on the question : What has changed so much on ground that the same Kashmiri who had welcomed the Indian Army in the 1940s now live in the constant fear of illegal arrests, killings, torture and of course, forced disappearances?

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