SRINAGAR: The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which provides immunity to soldiers operating in J&K, can’t be revoked as long as the Disturbed Area Act (DAA) is in place, a former Chief Justice of Orissa High Court said Saturday.
“AFSPA is in place because DAA is here. To invoke AFSPA power is with President of India or Governor of the state,” said Justice (retd) Bilal Nazki while speaking at a seminar here.
He said Kashmir was declared as a ‘disturbed area’ “on the instructions of the then Home Minister of India, who happened to be a Kashmiri (Mufti Mohammad Sayeed) through then Governor of the state.”
Nazki, who is chairperson of Bihar’s State Human Rights Commission, said AFSPA can be revoked if there is a political will. “But there should be a mechanism even within the AFSPA. Let them decide first.”
Nazki said AFSPA has been a problem for the Northeast as well where it is in place for the past six decades.
He said J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah “tried his best” to get AFSPA revoked from certain areas of the state but he didn’t get support from any corner.
“Omar talked for the revocation of the law from certain areas for years. Did he get the support? No. If it was an issue like age enhancement (of employees) he would have got it,” he said.
Naziki said that human rights situation in many parts of India, where AFSPA is not in vogue, “is worse than Kashmir.”
“There are worse situations in Maharashtra, Andhra or Bihar than Kashmir, and AFSPA is not in place there. India is suffering without AFSPA and killings happen in every part,” he said.
“Detentions are more as compared to Kashmir. Maharashtra has highest number of custodial deaths than Kashmir,” Nazki said.
He said human rights violations are vital in Kashmir, but conditions of human rights in Kashmir are not as worse as Maharashtra or any other state of India. “Kashmir tragedy is the failure of system. Violations of human rights in Kashmir are done by Kashmiris itself.”
Justice Nazki was speaking at a day-long seminar organized by the Human Rights Law Network where many other former judges and lawyers spoke.
In his address, senior Supreme Court lawyer Colin Gonsalves said certain parts of judiciary “take part on the side of state.”
He said though most of Kashmiris do not trust Indian judiciary, “certain latest judgments have kindled a ray of hope to get certain amount of justice.”
“We all know how difficult it is to get justice. Chance of victory may be small but it is there. You must take whatever opportunity you may have slight chance and that chance is worth taking,” Gonsalves said.
Former law professor, SM Afzal Qadri said there is a difference between a torture and human rights violations in Kashmir and in other parts of India.
“Here torture is institutionalized as compared to other parts of India. Major human rights violations are done by state agencies,” said Prof Qadri, adding that people feel now there is no alternative and have lost trust on judiciary.
Speaking on the occasion, APDP chairperson Parveena Ahangar said that law is not meant for civilians only but for army soldiers as well.
“We don’t trust courts as they have not provided any justice to us so far,” she said.
Others who spoke on the occasion included journalists Zahir–ud-Din and Anuradha Bhasin, human rights activist Ahsan Untoo, Hurriyat (G) leader Zamrooda Habib, civil society activist Dr Rouf Mohiddin and writer Gowhar Geelani.