|Rule of law first victim of AFSPA: ex-IB official|
R Dutta Choudhury
GUWAHATI, Nov 23 – The first casualty of imposition of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act is the rule of the law as the Act gives sweeping powers to the armed forces to operate in the area declared as “disturbed” without any accountability. This was the observation made by former Special Director of the Intelligence Bureau, RN Ravi.
Talking to The Assam Tribune, Ravi opposed the recent decision of the Government to extend the term of the AFSPA in Assam for a period of one more year with effect from November 4 and said that there was no reason to declare the entire state of Assam as a disturbed area at present.
Ravi pointed out that when an area is declared as disturbed under the provisions of the AFSPA, all the persons living in the area are treated as suspects and the common people and not the militants are the worst sufferers. Over the years, a good number of killings took place in Assam by the personnel of the armed forces and very rarely, the incidents are probed to ascertain whether the persons killed were really terrorists.
The former IB officer pointed out that the Assam Police tackled the situation during the Assam agitation, when the entire State was in turmoil. But when the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) was at its peak, the Government of India imposed the AFSPA in Assam in November 1990 and the ‘Operation Bajrang’ was launched to deal with the situation. However, despite improvement in the situation and even at a time when most of the militant groups have come forward for talks, the Central Government has been extending the term of the Act. He said that the Assam Government has also been advocating the need for extending the Act mainly because it gives it an opportunity to shift the blame whenever necessary. The Justice Saikia Commission, appointed by the Assam Government to probe the secret killings, had also opposed the Act, but for its own benefit, the Assam Government has been supporting the Act, he pointed out.
Ravi further said that the Government of Nagaland has been formally opposing the extension of the Act, while the Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir had also opposed the Act, forcing the Central Government to send a Parliamentary team to the State to study the situation. But in case of Assam, the State Government has been supporting the Act and the civil society also failed to raise a strong voice on the issue, he said.
The former IB official further pointed out that the situation in the Maoist-infested States like Chattisgarh is far worse than in Assam, but the Centre has not dared to impose the AFSPA in those States because of political compulsions.
It may be mentioned here that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the term of the AFSPA in Assam for a period of one more year with effect from November 4 and the entire State of Assam and 20 km wide belt of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh has been declared as “disturbed area” under the Act. The notification said that the law-and-order situation in Assam continues to be a matter of concern due to the violent activities of the militants. During the period from January to August this year, there were 127 incidents of violence, in which 11 persons including two security personnel were killed. Maoist movements were noticed in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh and Maoist activities were found in the districts of Golaghat, Dhemaji, Lakhimpur and Tinsukia of Assam and the Namsai area of Arunachal. The ULFA (I) has been staying in Lohit, Tirap and Changlang districts of Arunachal Pradesh, while the GNLA is helping the ULFA to take shelter in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya, the notification said.