The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force (IAF) do not want dilutions in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which is in force in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) and the Northeast.
Chief of Army Staff General Bikram Singh said earlier this week, “I am of the view that we should not dilute provisions of the AFSPA. Terrorists are afraid of this because this gives us powers to carry out operations against inimical elements and enemies of the state who defy the rule of law. Gen Singh said, “It enables us to operate in an asymmetric environment which is full of uncertainties and where it is difficult to differentiate between a friend and a foe. Any decision to revoke or dilute the AFSPA must be taken after taking into account all stake-holders and all agencies involved.”
J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has said that the Act should be withdrawn in districts where violence has gone down and should be diluted in the others. The Army has argued that the Act is required to operate in a counter-insurgency environment as it gives them immunity against local laws.
Senior IAF officials have said that officers operating in areas where the Act is implemented feel safe as it gives them immunity and power.
A source said, “One of the clauses that the state government has asked for diluting is the search without a warrant clause, which is not possible as it would take time to obtain permissions and warrants, and in most cases the Army doesn’t know in whose name the warrant has to be issued, as it operates on local intelligence.”
An Army officer said that the political class in Kashmir has been demanding the lifting of AFSPA for quite some time now, but it cannot be done without a Parliamentary amendment. Even the armed forces want the legality of the soldier to be covered and operational flexibility to be maintained.