Condemn not, praise the General
GEN JASWAL HAS SAID WHAT OTHERS DARE NOT SAY, COMMENTS HASSAN ZAINAGAIREE
'I would like to say that the provisions of AFSPA are very pious to me and I think to the entire Indian Army. We have religious books, there are certain guidelines which are given there, but all the members of the religion do not follow it, they break it also, does it imply that you remove the religious book or you remove this chap. My take on it is to find someone guilty, take him to task, but don't touch this pious document or provisions of AFSPA' ____ Lt. Gen BS Jaswal.
Before we move on to make a dispassionate analysis of the Indian Army's Northern Command Chief's statement on AFSPA, it is in place to mention that Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which contributes to the climate of impunity (from legal action) for armed forces in J&K and which is in operation since 1990, is an amended form of Armed Forces Special Powers Ordinance of 1942 of imperialist British which Viceroy Lord Linlithgo brought in force on 15 August 1942 to quell 'Quit India Movement". The Act gave unbridled powers to the British troops. The British left but waking up to the dawn of freedom, India not only preferred to live with it, but added more canine teeth to it in an amendment in 1958.
General Sahab's comment has evoked a widespread condemnation from human rights groups, civil society, media and leadership from across the political and ideological divide in Kashmir. But I think General should have been applauded for making a candid expression. To give vent to what authorities in India and its think tanks and media, even its civil society, do believe in but have reservations in admitting in public. He has blown off the covers of double-speak and shown how Indian Army is 'divinely' operating in Kashmir. While Delhi goes in sync with his line of thinking, its democratic veneer doesn't allow it to speak in General's tune. While it pussyfoots, the General puts up the brave, smart and honest face. We salute General for his moral courage to speak from his heart. Why should knives be drawn against the commandant when what he said has had the blessing, backing and support from Delhi.
General's penchant for his unalloyed expressions reminds us of his press briefing at his Udhampur headquarters. Where he, above other things, equated frequent street protests and shut downs with 'agitational terrorism' and thus 'a cause of worry' for India and advocated for 'presence of security forces till the threat of re-emergence of militants is totally eliminated' (GK: November 01, 2009), This statement in itself reveals the intent behind in having AFSPA "guide" the forces in 'disturbed' area. Read it with his latest, there is no fudge, no ambiguity. The 'cause of worry' is not militancy, it is the people, agitating on streets, though not with guns in hand but entire world of innocence to put up before the bullets and tear gas shells that is a new breed of "terrorism" AFSPA has to take care of after militancy stands defanged and made visibly invisible.
This 'cause of worry' has equally been shared by the political establishment and opinion moulding class in Delhi who endorsed it being pro-actively silent. It is not an "error of judgement" made by the General that needs second look. It is his conviction that gets mirrored in his statement. He is unambiguously clear and, yes, truthful to hold and make us believe that Armed Forces in Kashmir are pitted against the rebel Kashmiris to wean them off 'secessionist' fold and win them in lap. And for this Yudh the Generals would find 'entire nation at their back'. That is why tragedies like Nadihal, where three Nadihal youth after being lured for employment, were killed by troops at Machil (Kupwara) near LoC for promotion and gallantry award, do not cause ripples in the political waters of India and meet frigid response from its Civil society.
That said and done, General's 'pious' remark does not hinge on reason. It is terribly unconvincing. Comparison of the black law with religious scriptures and lending it the touch of holiness is incomparable. Religion curbs animal instinct and values life and calls for its protection.
When have mortal souls graduated to the level of gods where what they say has religious sanction. Which angel from God has descended on General Jaswal to reveal onto him His blessed scripture? Or, has His Lordship in the Heaven been given up to the "Lord" of this part of the planet to claim "divine" robes. And then you claim to be a 'disciplined' force of a 'secular' country where enactment of all laws and their execution is all man-made. And subject to exigencies of time and circumstances. Only those laws are allowed to stay which are pro-people.
AFSPA is a man-made law, not a pious document. As laws keep changing, amendments are being made in them or their revocation sought and done when their lethal toxicity becomes unbearable. Indian constitution is held a sacred document and any infringement of it makes the offender liable for legal action. But if too did not preserve its "virginity". Near about hundred amendments in it are a testimony of man's limitations. Its vulnerability to foresee future. Perhaps General believes in "honor" killing so as to protect the sanctity of institution of unaccounted power and quell the dissent on continuation or revocation of the dreaded law.
The "sanctity" of the law, the brainchild of colonial British was first challenged by Gandhi himself and his Congress. Their 'agitational terrorism' too was sought to be curbed by promulgation of AFSPA. So there is nothing holy in the law. See how aggressive nationalism blinds the eyes. Indians under the Gandhian leadership voicing their anger against 'agitational terrorism' the law loses its holiness, Kashmiris and civil society doing the same is sacrilegious. That reveals India approaches Kashmir copying Lord Linlithgo. And General is on right track in having an honest appreciation of the situation that prevails in Muslim majority parts of Kashmir.
Holy legislations do not differentiate people on colors, race, region, and creed. Their holiness encompasses all. If provision of AFSPA are pious, why not make a proclamation by Prathiba Patil and introduce it throughout India so as to meet demands of equitable justice. The fact of the matter, however, is that AFSPA snatches life, dignity, and honor of people. And that is the "commodity" that fetches cheap in Kashmir.
We know Delhi resorted to a 'constitutional' route in bringing Muslim majority regions of the state under the ambit of black laws. Disturbed Areas Act and AFSPA were invoked in Governor and President's rule and when NC government took over in 1996 it not only continued with these acts in the valley but also extended these to Muslim majority areas of Jammu. True AFSPA was not droned by Delhi on Kashmir, it pursued 'legal means'. But the question is why rulers in Delhi do not listen to the 'elected representatives' when they express their disgust and anger over the continuation of these laws and press for their revocation. Why it is other way round when it doesn't suit Delhi. Omar Abdullah has unequivocally registered his dissatisfaction on AFSPA and has made a strong pitch for changes in it to make it more transparent. . 'Because of the AFSPA because it is built for the armed forces', believes Omar Abdullah, 'Army is the judge, jury and hangman. Therefore, there is absence of transparency as a result of which people have lost faith in the syatem' (GK 6 June, 2010). Not only this, he has raised 'question marks' over the 'encounter killings' in the backdrop of recent Machil fake encounter. That amply demonstrates "holy" character of the AFSPA