AFSPA and the Shopian Fake Encounter

AFSPA and the Shopian Fake Encounter

On 18th July 2020, the Indian Army claimed that it had killed 3 terrorists in an encounter at Amshipora Shopian. It also claimed to have recovered incriminating and explosive material from the slain trio. However after the pictures of the youth went viral on social media, a couple of families from Rajouri district of Jammu claimed that the killed trio belonged to them adding that the youth had nothing to do with Militancy, even though the army didn’t altered its earlier claim, the massive outrage by people forced Army and local police to ascertain and investigate the alleged “fake encounter”. Months after, the slain youth were confirmed to be the residents of Rajouri. These Youngsters who had come to earn bread and butter for their families didn’t know that the death was awaiting them in the guise of a planned fake encounter. The police probe that went on for several months recently indicted an Army Captain for “murdering three innocent youth after abducting them with the help of two other locals” believed to army informers. The investigation also revealed that the accused officer planted illegally acquired weapons and explosive material on the dead bodies of youth after murdering them. While the two local civilians accused have been arrested and are currently lodged at special sub-jail in Pulwama, the main conspirator, the Army captain is yet to be arrested due to the procedures under Armed Forces Special Powers Act, famously known as AFSPA. Under AFSPA, a prior sanction from the central Government is required to prosecute paramilitary officials deployed in Jammu and Kashmir. The AFSPA law was put to force in 1990 in Jammu and Kashmir. It was set to expire in 1992 but was again re-enacted in the same year. The Act Authorizes officers to use any force against persons they deem fit to have contravened the laws. Also they wouldn’t need any warrant to arrest someone they assume had or has the probability of committing any offence. Under this act, No legal proceedings could be initiated even in case of any breach of law is reported.

While the probe of local police is commendable and appreciable, it is highly unlikely that the accused Army officer will face the law fairly given the experience of futility of previous thousands of such probes. In the past also, numerous officers of army and CRPF were indicted in different alleged killings, tortures and fake encounters but didn’t face the law and no practical action could ever be taken against the accused officers. In fact, whenever any trooper is held accused, the AFSPA always comes to rescue them from facing law. AFSPA is always blatantly misused in the guise of conflict and the justice always remains unserved to the families of slain people.  While Indian Government has repeatedly maintained that it respects the rights of every citizen irrespective of their ethnic belongings and ensures that no breach or violation of these rights happen, the ground realities counter these tall claims. In fact, the Data released by its own Home Ministry in response to an RTI Query in 2017 showed that Jammu and Kashmir ranked at 1st position on rights abuses and violations under AFSPA. The draconian law has always attracted a tremendous amount of criticism from every nook and corner of the human world for being widely blatant and discriminatory. Several international Human rights Groups and Activists have incessantly demanded the rollback of AFSPA, but to their utter sadness, the Indian government seems to be in no such mood. Such ignorance of government is only going to further alienate the youth of Jammu and Kashmir forcing them to take extreme steps which would further lead to increase in violence in the territory governed by the centre itself.

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