AFSPA and Chutzpah both went viral when the Bollywood movie “Haider” was released. Prior to this, people were not really aware of the term chutzpah, but after the release of the movie, it became a street joke for a long time. The common jokes/slang were also replaced by the new word. Even when encounters took place in a nearby village or town, people were using the word “Chutzpah” for it – implying that the encounters are either fake or may be a part of political diplomacy. They said, “yea gou chutzpah encounter” (This is chutzpah encounter).

Maybe the new word “chutzpah” was new to Kashmiris but the draconian act which rhymes with it has bewildered people for a fairly long time. The trepidation of it made many people leave the parts of Kashmir. People across Kashmir who faced the wrath of AFSPA have always called it the destructive tool used by Indian government to suppress the masses of Kashmir. Across Kashmir people are afraid. They have no faith in justice. The army has spoiled everything. This may be the reason why the people of Kashmir demand freedom from the occupying forces – or maybe there is another reason, too.

The roots of AFSPA are deep, coming from the times when India was under British rule. They named it the 'Armed Forces Special Power Ordinance 1942'. The British Empire launched this brutal Act soon after the Quit India Movement. Later, this Act was implemented in Kashmir in order to suppress the masses here.

This draconian act was brought to the Sufi land during the insurgency period when the freedom movement was at its peak and across Kashmir there was a wave that will be remembered by every generation. It was when Kashmiris unanimously abhorred India’s occupational rule, when people believed more in guerrilla warfare than the law, when people across Kashmir came out on streets and sacrificed their lives, when people were believing more in the famous quote, “Someone’s terrorist is another man’s martyr” and when, across Kashmir, there were green flags and graffiti.

Although I was not born at that time, but I do remain witness to many killings which happened after my birth, which taught me how Kashmiris must have suffered during that period. If you would like to read about the period and feel the pain that Kashmiris experienced during the insurgency, you can read the novel “Curfewed Nights” by Basharat Peer or “The Book of Gold leaves” by Mirza Waheed. Or you can read the pages of history – all of this will leave u utterly flabbergasted. In both the suggested novels, the authors have epitomised each and every movement of the insurgency period (1990’s), and have discussed how and why young Kashmiris of the period grew interested in joining militant ranks.

The draconian act has been used not as a tool to tackle the radicalisation, but is misused to affect the lives of ordinary Kashmiri people making them miserable. You might question me how they can do that, but you have to believe me it happens every single day in Kashmir: when the paramilitary troops tag anyone they like as militant and kill anyone in any fake encounter and leave his family numb in deep shock.

What actually is AFSPA? Is it what Wikipedia tells us it is or there is there something more to it? Let some people read how AFSPA is turning out to be one of the worst Acts in the history of the subcontinent.

AFSPA

AFSPA grants the army, central police forces, and the state police personnel in “disturbed areas” “certain special powers,” including the right to shoot to kill, to raid houses, and destroy any property that is “likely” to be used by insurgents, and “to arrest without warrant” even on “reasonable suspicion” a person who has committed or even “about to commit a cognizable offence.”

Besides conferring extensive powers on the armed forces, AFSPA provides them immunity from prosecution. “No prosecution, suit or other legal proceeding shall be instituted except with the previous sanction of the Central government against any person” who has acted under this legislation, it says.

It is ironic that the law itself accords immunity even for the acts that are carried out purportedly in accordance with the Act, beside those acts that are carried out in accordance with the Act. In other words, those who drafted the law well anticipated the eventuality that many acts would be perpetrated that can only be purported to be done in exercise of the powers conferred by the Act and cannot be claimed to be done in accordance with the Act.

Mass rapes, killing innocents, disappearances of young youths and framing innocent people in illegal cases had been carried out under the shadow of this law. The law has served the army well… by giving it the right to kill anyone in parts of Kashmir like Tral – a small hamlet of Pulwama – and in Sopore area. Security forces need to commit to the values of the Constitution and develop a respect for human rights, not trample on these rights with impunity. Otherwise, the very sovereignty that they defend with their use of force will cease to be the sovereignty of the people and become that of an oligarchy. Of course, security personnel need protection from prosecution for acts of coercion carried out in extreme circumstances. But they need this on par with what policemen enjoy, not one iota more nor one iota less.

A law like AFSPA befits a colonial government, not a democracy. The use of AFSPA in states on the periphery of India serves only to convince their populace that New Delhi is an occupying, colonial power in their region. This only helps keep these areas disturbed forever, not to resolve the political problems that created the disturbance to begin with.

Kashmir has become a lethal laboratory for many people. To test any experiment, any deadly weapon or any draconian act they always introduce it here first – right from AFSPA to the deadly pellet gun.

When I was child I faced wrath of the draconian act, when some paramilitary troopers entered our village and started the search operation to find hideout of some militants. The government hasn’t allotted me an election card which they (Army jawans) were asking everyone for to confirm whether the person belonged to the village or not. From some distance I saw the army captain who was in charge scolding some small children for not carrying an election card. I quickly ran out from the line and went back home to save myself from the wrath of the paramilitary troopers. From that day onward, whenever I see any Army man, I feel myself shivering. Whenever I see any paramilitary trooper, I quickly check my wallet for the election card. Sometimes I question myself why we need to prove on our own land that we belong to this area – why this menace?

On July 5 2015 AFSPA celebrated its 25th anniversary in Kashmir. The Amnesty International has slammed India for a lack of accountability for human rights violations in Indian-occupied Kashmir.

The report notes that July 5, 2015 marked the completion of 25 years since the enactment of AFSPA 1990 (the Armed Forces Special Powers Act) and calls for the immediate removal of the oppressive law. The report also puts a special focus on Section 7 of AFSPA, which grants immunity to armed forces personnel from prosecution.

The Kashmiris have been struggling for their inalienable right to self-determination and India has used brute force to suppress their struggle for the last 68 years. Indian authorities have been enforcing inhuman laws like Public Safety Act (PSA) and AFSPA to suppress the indigenous Kashmir freedom movement. Indeed Amnesty International has exposed the real face of India.