When the Home Minister of India, Rajnath Singh on Thursday, July 2, said that the time is not conducive to lift the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, he has a valid point.
There is nothing to suggest that the militants are backing down and in fact if one looks at the various intelligence alerts or inputs relating to Kashmir it is clear that militants are getting aggressive as each day passes.
The AFSPA for the Indian army is a much wanted provision as it gives them the powers to conduct searches and carry out arrests without a warrant. [AFSPA to be revoked when situation is conducive: Rajnath Singh]
The army feels that the militants use innocent locals as shields and often seek refuge in their homes. If we were to obtain warrants each time, then the militants could be at an advantage, an officer in the Indian Army says.
Not the right time to relax AFSPA:
While several persons in Kashmir have stated that the AFSPA harasses them, it is the political class which has very often sought the relaxation of the provision.
While there have been demands to relax AFSPA in certain parts, the Indian army is of the view that it cannot be done. If it is relaxed in certain parts, then there is every chance that the militants will take advantage of it in these areas.
Security analysts say that before taking any decision to either withdraw or relax AFSPA, one would need to determine the extent of the problem first.
The problem is not as bad as it used to be ten years back, but certain checks and measures ought to be in place and the Indian army is the best judge of the situation.
What one must also bear in mind is that the situation is slightly different when compared to a few years back. The Hizbul Mujahideen appears to be back and is in the reckoning yet again.
They are trying to make a statement and have carried out a series of attacks in the recent months. If AFSPA is relaxed in some areas, there is no guarantee that they would not take advantage of the situation.
Can the army operate without cover of the law?
The Indian army is well aware that groups such as the Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayiba and the Hizbul Mujahideen are waiting for an opportunity to bounce back in Kashmir.
They are relatively down at the moment. None in the security establishment can ensure that these militants would not take advantage of the situation is the AFSPA is relaxed.
Indian army officials say the problem of militancy in Kashmir is a challenging issue. There are militants and there are separatists who will continue to provoke the people and also use them as shields.
The Indian army needs the protection of the law. If we try and carry out an operation in an area where the AFSPA is relaxed, then we will continue to face agitations and cases and in the bargain the militants would have managed to get away.
Why political parties should not discuss AFSPA?
Speak to any officer in the Intelligence Bureau or the Indian army and they would say that political parties should not take the call on AFSPA.
They would not have any understanding of the situation on the ground. The relaxation of implementation of such laws cannot be political decision.
It is the army which has to deal with the situation. The Indian army has a task on hand while dealing with the problem in Kashmir and it would need the protection of the law.
For some political parties relaxation of AFSPA may give them brownie points, but when it comes to the ground reality it is the security forces who need to face the situation on the ground.