The 56 years of AFSPA has a deep impact upon the society of north east India that has now learnt to internalise militarisation and has negotiated life of arbitrariness under RULE O’ FLAW.
56 years of AFSPA: Legalising Rule O’ Flaw
By Anjuman Ara Begum
‘It was on the 11 September 1958 that the President of India signed the Act, and the same day 9/11 is observed as the anti-terrorism day world over, the struggle against state terrorism started on the same day for the inalienable civil, political and cultural rights of the peoples of Northeast India with the imposition of AFSPA 56 years ago…’. this was the reaction of civil society members gathered on September 11, 2014 at Guwahati to ‘celebrate’ the 56 years of Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA, in short). AFSPA became law on September 11, 1958 after receiving assent of the president of India. It was promised to be a temporary measure. 56 years on, the Act is still in force despite several calls for its repeal and is still held strong by the armed forces an excuse for legalising repression and impunity calling it a ‘holly book’. Participating in the same gathering renowned human rights activist of the region Babloo Loitongbam, ‘if this is temporary measure then what it the meaning of permanent?’, a thought that provokes human conscience to rethink about AFSPA.
RULE OF LAW, a universally celebrated and adopted concept to counter arbitrariness and unreasonableness in law and practice. The concept dominates the law making process of today’s civilised and democratic countries. Soon after adopting a written constitution in 1950 with implicit guarantee of RULE OF LAW, the state of India continue to resort to repressive policies as well as practices. Following the colonial footsteps, the AFSP bill was passed in the parliament in August, 1958 after a brief seven hours debate. It was in the same year of 1958, India signed Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Geneva Conventions of 1948, Convention against Racial Discrimination and several others. State of India continued to reaffirm its commitment towards the protection and promotion of international human rights standards despite resorting to repressive policies and practices like AFSPA domestically.
Soon after becoming a law, AFSPA started concretising it’s existence. It’s application continued to be extended as well as it’s abuses. Needless to say that the Act has ‘normalised’ routine declaration of disturbed area, encouraged the practice of extrajudicial execution and reinforced the culture of impunity. Let’s us consider these three aspects.
Firstly, the extension ‘disturbed area’ status for north eastern states since 1955 has now attained the status of a mere routine administrative exercise. What constitute ‘disturbances’ is still not codified in legal literature. Even the judiciary ignored this aspect. In Naga People Movement for Human Rights vs. Union of India, AIR 1998 SC 431, it was simply said that the country understands what constructs a ‘disturbed area’. It was further decreed that there is no requirement that the Central Government shall consult the State Government before making the declaration. In fact, there are instances where state’s resolution against such declaration has been ignored. It is reported that Nagaland state assembly passed resolutions against the extension on four occasions and each time these resolutions have been ignored by the centre government. Tripura, a state often claimed as an example of successful counter insurgency measures still remained ‘disturbed’. Tripura hardly had any major armed encounter in recent years. Such back door declarations of emergency situation continued simultaneously when Government of India claimed internationally that there is no situation of armed conflict in the country.
Declaration of ‘disturbed area’ also means additional budget allocations. In a corrupt country like India, this aspect is important in the context of recurring extension of ‘disturbed area’ status. Parliament of India’s record suggests that the Government has been providing financial assistance. During the period of the year 2011- 2012 financial assistance was provided unde