Conflict

J&K tops list of rights abuses under AFSPA: RTI

Srinagar: In a Right to Information (RTI) query, home ministry released data which ranked Manipur third in human rights abuse under AFSPA after J&K and Assam.

Topping the list Jammu and Kashmir comes first on the list of rights abuses under Armed Forces Special Forces Act (AFSPA) followed by Assam.

The union home ministry released the data revealing high ranks of human rights violation in J&K and Assam under AFSPA even while keeping in mind the future of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in
the northeast. One Right to Information query filed by Venkatesh Naik who is a human rights activist the documents were made public.

The documents show the rights abuse committed under AFSPA in which J&K has topped, with over 92 complaints against the Indian Army and paramilitary forces in 2016. Assam has apparently fell second in line with 58 complaints, then followed by Manipur at 21, whereas Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh follows the next at five and six complaints, respectively.

Of all the 186 complaints received, 74 were against the Indian Army. 24 complaints were made in encounter deaths at the hands of army, 16 complaints were in deaths by army firing, with remaining 21 cases that are of alleged fake encounters including 10 cases of rape and abduction.

The ministry along with releasing the data has also unleashed verbatim made it clear that all security personnel deployed in conflict zones governed by AFSPA have to abide by a strict code of conduct.

“For preventing human rights violations under the AFSPA, guidelines have been issued for the armed forces. Violation of these guidelines by members of the Armed Forces makes them liable for prosecution under the Army Act and the respective Acts of the CAPFs (central armed police forces),” a home ministry official said on condition of
anonymity.

An army officer who wished to not reveal his name said the human rights cells of the Army and the CAPFs closely monitored the alleged human rights violations.

On the other hand experts and former army officials, stated that in conflict regions such as Jammu and Kashmir—given the recent uprising and onslaught of stone-pelting on the forces—“human rights violations” has taken on a very different meaning.

“If a soldier rapes a woman, he deserves a punishment that’s severe. There is no other punishment. But for situations where civilians are throwing stones at the soldiers or hindering security operations, the soldiers have to defend themselves because civilians there who pelt stones at forces don’t care for the lives of a soldier,” said Gaurav Arya, defence expert and former Indian Army officer.

An expert on the issues of the northeast, however, stated that the matter was totally different in the region—with Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland under AFSPA, the armed forces enjoyed impunity despite gross violations.

The experts do not deny the faking of many army encounters saying that a majority of the “encounters” carried out in the northeast were staged.

“There is a huge mafia nexus in the region, especially Assam that identifies people who can’t leave a trail and whose disappearance will not be reported. They are then sold to the security forces, passed off as ‘militants’ and killed in ‘encounters’,” said Kishalay Bhattacharjee, author and expert on northeast India. On 14 July, in a breakthrough judgment, the Supreme Court for the first time took cognizance of 1,528 cases of fake encounters under AFSPA in Manipur ordering, a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into 97 of them.

Ordinarily, if there are human rights violations, the complainant can approach the police station, which conducts an immediate inquiry into the allegation and then lodges a first information report (FIR). The security forces too conduct parallel semi judicial processes. At the same time, the CBI can also be ordered by a higher court to
investigate or re-investigate such allegations.

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