Shopian encounter probe puts focus back on AFSPA

Shopian encounter probe puts focus back on AFSPA

Photo for representation only. File photo

Arun Joshi

Tribune News Service

Jammu, September 18

The Army’s admission on Friday that soldiers involved in the Amshipora Shopian encounter had exceeded their powers under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) is first such acceptance since August 5 last year.

It is rife with ramifications in which anger on the ground in Kashmir threatens to escalate and complicate the already complex situation.

It will also raise more questions about the continuation of the special powers, for which there are no easy answers available as to why the AFSPA is needed even after more than 30 years of its existence in J&K.

‘Misuse’ of spl powers

  • Ever since the AFSPA was invoked on July 5, 1990, after it was found that the system had collapsed and routine laws were insufficient to deal with the heightened militancy and violence, there have been a series of charges against forces for misusing the special powers.
  • Inquiries were instituted in some cases, and a few of these found soldiers guilty, but what happened thereafter was not made public, reinforcing doubts of people in such investigations.

Ever since the AFSPA was invoked on July 5, 1990, after it was found that the system had collapsed and routine laws were insufficient to deal with the heightened militancy and violence, there have been a series of charges against forces for misusing the special powers. Inquiries were instituted in some cases, and a few of these found soldiers guilty, but what happened thereafter was not made public, reinforcing doubts of people in such investigations.

“Staged encounters” and the killing of civilians were also reported during the period of political governments, but this is for the first time that such a thing has come to the fore since J&K became a UT on October 31last year.

All 20 districts of the UT are covered under the AFSPA where the forces have a shield against any legal action for their acts of omission and commission. While the entire Kashmir Valley and 20 km radius from LoC in the twin border districts of Rajouri and Poonch in the Jammu region were declared disturbed areas and brought under the AFSPA in July 1990, the rest of the Jammu region was covered under this Act in August 2001.

What, however, is significant in this particular episode is that the Army has stated it candidly that its inquiry “brought out certain prima facie evidence indicating that during the operation, powers vested under the AFSPA 1990 were exceeded and the do’s and don’ts of Chief of Army Staff (COAS) as approved by the Supreme Court have been contravened”.

“Consequently, the competent disciplinary authority has directed to initiate disciplinary proceedings under the Army Act against those found prima facie answerable.”

But the people in Kashmir whose silent anger is swelling would have their own versions. They may have no appetite for street protests, but the overload of the temperature over such cases creates a high-pressure situation.

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