After reading this release from Human Rights Watch, which urges the government of India to ban the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in order to ensure the protection of human rights, it is abundantly clear that Prime Minister Manmohan Signh is in no hurry to follow through on his promise of putting an end to the AFSPA.
So first of all, what exactly is the AFSPA?
The AFSPA grants the armed forces the power to shoot to kill in law enforcement situations, to arrest without warrant, and to detain people without time limits. As a result, the armed forces routinely engage in torture and other ill-treatment during interrogation in army barracks. The law forbids prosecution of soldiers without approval from the central government, which is rarely granted.
The Indian government has failed to ban the AFSPA because the AFSPA serves as a great deterrent against anyone–oftentimes those who seek progressive change and social justice–whose ideas conflict with the government. Imagine if someone speaks out about something the government is doing wrong. The solution is quite simple: allow a soldier to make that person “disappear,” which would quell further debate since it instills a climate of fear.
When the state gives immunity to the military, it often leads to an increase, not a decrease, in violence because absolute power corrupts. In order to redress this issue, the Indian government should start with the immediate cessation of the AFSPA.