The Lok Sabha Committee assembled to discuss and debate the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Acts (AFSPA)―a series of acts of the Indian Parliament that grant special powers to the Indian Armed Forces, that are to be used in specific areas of certain states in India, which are recognized by the Government of India as “Disturbed Areas” under The Disturbed Areas Act of 1976.
The first session saw the delegates making their opening statements, in alignment with their respective portfolios, in favour or against the Acts in question. They were expected to limit their arguments to that of the politicians they were embodying, which led to some colourful characters with views and opinions spanning the entire political spectrum. Soon after this, the first moderated caucus was held that debated the impact of AFSPA on Human Rights. A passionate discussion ensued, with the delegates deftly navigating the moral greys of the Acts, presenting the chair with case studies and real-life examples to flesh out their arguments. A lot of the speakers were met with the customary banging of the table to signal agreement from either side. After the speakers’ list was exhausted, the chair announced an unmoderated caucus―a break―till the start of the next session.
The second session saw three more moderated caucuses which zeroed in on the situations in the state of Jammu & Kashmir and the Northeast region of India, as a result of AFSPA. The discussions that followed were in equal measure practical and emotionally fueled (anti-nationalism and partisanship being the keywords). The participation skewed as well, with some delegates more involved than the others, but the quality of the debates remained untouched―the arguments were unanimously eloquent. Towards the end of the session, the delegates were told to come with a working paper―individually or otherwise―detailing the amendments they would like to bring to the Acts. With this, another break commenced.
Session three consisted of three moderated caucuses on three working papers. The proposed amendments―which varied quite a bit, ranging from giving more power to the Armed Forces, to heavily regulating it, and even scrapping the acts altogether―were debated upon heavily. The delegates, however, managed to keep it civil, considering the gravity of the topic.
The first session of the second day required the delegates to come up with a single final report. This was done through an unmoderated caucus, where the final consensus was to slowly phase out the AFSPA. The report was formed and was passed unanimously.
The committee showcased an uncommon level of professionalism, which resulted from the effective understanding of the law and proceedings by the chair, and the admirable workmanship of the delegates.
~Melvin Jacob for MTTN