After the initial employment in Nagaland, the employment of the army on counter-insurgency tasks continued increasing, till it was progressively employed in all the north-eastern states for such tasks. Along with such employment, AFSPA was also invoked in all affected states.
When insurgency erupted in Srinagar in 1990, the Act was extended to the Valley. Later, as the activities of the insurgents spread, first to the Poonch-Rajauri area, then to Doda and Bhadarwah and finally to the whole state, the entire state was brought under the Act’s purview in stages. It can thus be seen that AFSPA was invoked progressively only when the situation required the deployment of the army.
The Army has no desire to get embroiled in counter-insurgency tasks. It is not the armys job. However, despite over 50 years of insurgency in our country, the state police as well as the central police forces (CPOs) have not been made capable of tackling insurgency.
The army is designed and structured for fighting external enemies of the nation. Consequently, they are not given any police powers. However, when the nation wants the army to conduct counter-insurgency and counter-terrorist operations, then they must be given the legal authority to conduct their operations without the impediment of getting clearances from the higher authorities.
If this is not done, they would be unable to function efficiently and defeat the insurgents and terrorists at their own game. It is for this reason that the Act gives four powers to army personnel. These are for ‘enter and search’, ‘arrest without warrant’, ‘destroy arms dumps or other fortifications’ and ‘fire or use force after due warning where possible’. Once again, there is a safeguard in the Act, which stipulates that the arrested person(s) will be handed over speedily to the nearest police station.
The law stipulates that AFSPA can be imposed only after the area in question is declared a ‘disturbed area’ by the state government concerned. When this writer was the Director-General Military Operations (DGMO) and the army was asked to deploy in the Doda-Bhadarwah area, we requested for the invocation of the Act. The state government was reluctant to do so on account of political considerations, but we did not commence operations till the Act was invoked.
Clearly, the Army has no desire to get embroiled in counter-insurgency tasks. It is not the army’s job. However, despite over 50 years of insurgency in our country, the state police as well as the central police forces (CPOs) have not been made capable of tackling insurgency. Consequently, in each case the army was inducted to carry out counter insurgency/ terrorist operations. If the national leadership tasks the army for conducting such non-military operations, then it is incumbent on the leadership to provide the legal wherewithal to all army personnel employed on such tasks.
It is only then that the operations will be conducted in the usual efficient manner of the army and would be result-oriented. They also must be legally protected. It is because these two aspects have been catered for that the army has been neutralising the insurgents and terrorists, so that normalcy is restored and the political leaders and officials can restart governing.