Underlining that the Army has a “minimum role” in matters of internal security, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday said the Army only wants the situation to improve in Jammu and Kashmir so that the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act can be removed from the area.
“Some people believe that the Indian Army does not want AFSPA to be removed. I want to say from this forum today that the Indian Army has a minimum role in the matter of internal security. Army only wants that soon the situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be completely normal and AFSPA can be removed from there too,” said the Defence Minister while felicitating the 1971 War veterans and their family members at a function in Guwahati, Assam.
Recently, the AFSPA has been lifted from 23 Assam districts completely and from one district partially, 15 police stations in six Manipur districts, and 15 police stations in seven districts of Nagaland.
The controversial act empowers security forces to conduct operations anywhere and arrest anyone without any prior warrant. In addition to giving them sweeping powers, it also gives the forces legal immunity against a civilian trial.
Critics of the act say that AFSPA shields officers who indulge in human rights abuses and criminal acts as they cannot be tried in a civilian court and the military’s internal processes are opaque. Under the act, the local police need prior approval of the central government to prosecute army or paramilitary forces in civilian courts.
The calls for removal of AFSPA gathered pace after 14 civilians were gunned down by security forces in Nagaland in a case of “mistaken identity” in December last year, triggering massive outrage.