Essay

AFSPA: Licence to kill

Print edition : April 17, 2015

During the Quit India Movement in 1942. Exactly a week after the AICC passed the “Quit India” resolution on August 8, 1942, in Bombay (now Mumbai), the Viceroy, Lord Linlithgow, promulgated the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Ordinance, 1942, under Section 72 of the Government of India Act, 1935. Among the powers it conferred on certain officers of the armed forces was the licence to kill. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru at his desk. The AFSPA, 1958, was enacted on his watch and with his tacit blessings. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

G.B. Pant, Home Minister, with Indira Gandhi when she greeted him on his 71st birthday in 1957. While introducing the AFSP Bill on August 11, 1958, he said, "It provides for the protection of the Army when it has to deal with hostile Nagas." Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

B.N. Datar, Minister of State for Home in 1958. In his reply to the debate on the AFSP Bill in the Rajya Sabha, on the issue of who exercises control over the military officers, he evaded with a palpable falsehood: The Bill was only an "extension" of the Criminal Procedure Code. Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES

P. Chidambaram Minister, who had held the Home and Finance portfolios at different times in the UPA government. In a debate in Parliament in August 1990, he said, "The question of human rights in Kashmir cannot be brushed aside. You cannot hold the land and lose the people." Photo: KAMAL NARANG

Protests demanding the removal of the AFSPA from the north-eastern region and Kashmir, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in November 2011. Photo: V. SUDERSHAN

Protests demanding the removal of the AFSPA from the north-eastern region and Kashmir, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in August 2010. Photo: S. SUBRAMANIUM

Imphal, Manipur, 2004: Protesters block a bridge. Photo: RITU RAJ KONWAR

Schoolchildren in Imphal burning their books in protest. Photo: PTI

Politicians, by focussing the discussion on militancy, have successfully deflected attention from the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, a colonial relic that has no place in a civilised nation even at the worst of times.
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