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