New Delhi, June 25: The army is bristling at a fresh move in the government to dilute or revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
The AFSPA gives the army extraordinary powers in Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast to enforce law and order in aid of the civilian authority.
The army is particularly concerned about proposals floated from the Union home ministry to make it mandatory for soldiers to seek permission from a civilian authority before they open fire in areas covered by act. “We cannot realistically expect a commander on the ground to get on the telephone and seek permission to open fire when all hell is breaking loose,” an officer said.
The army is also worried at efforts to dilute the immunity granted to troops in these areas from prosecution without taking the permission of higher authorities.
Within the government, the fresh move aims at nudging the army to agree to a dilution of the AFSPA in Jammu and Kashmir, as demanded by chief minister Omar Abdullah, among others.
A source in the army said it would be difficult to function if the demand was accepted this season. The army has pointed out that if the act is revoked, implementing it again would be a time-consuming process “and disengaging security forces would cede space to terrorists and inimical elements and the space once ceded cannot be retrieved”.
The former army chief, General (retired) V.K. Singh, was vocal in opposing Union home minister P. Chidambaram’s move to revoke the AFSPA. That stand is unchanged for now after General Bikram Singh has taken over as army chief.