Lieutenant General D S Hooda, who was approached by the Congress Party to submit a report on the National Security plan has outrightly refused to have made a reference to the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act(AFSPA) in his report submitted to Congress President Rahul Gandhi.
Former Northern Army Commander Lt General Hooda was selected by the Congress to head a task force created by the Gandhi scion to prepare a national security strategy document for the party in the run-up to the upcoming Lok Sabha elections.
The Congress Manifesto 2019, which was termed as “a Charter to weaken India” by Union Minister Arun Jaitley, promises to repeal the sedition laws, dilute the AFSPA and decrease the presence of Armed forced in the Kashmir valley. Lt General Hooda, however, has clarified that he did not recommend anything regarding the AFSPA in the 42-page report on national security submitted by him.
While talking to NDTV Lt General Hooda said, “There is no mention of AFSPA as far as my document is concerned, nor is there any reference to the number of troops that are required to be there in the valley. There is no reference to the AFSPA one way or the other.”
“Our political objectives in Kashmir must be clear. And from those political objectives we will draw our military strategy and as part of that strategy what needs to be done or how much troops are required to be there, all these things, I think, are subsequent steps that need to be taken”, he added.
LT General Hooda said that he was not in the favour of dilution or removal of AFSPA as it is required for the protection of the Armed forces. “I think we should not talk about dilution or removal of the AFSPA because its something that is legally required for the army to operate in that area”, he said.
Contrary to the Congress manifesto’s claims, General Hooda stated that the AFSPA is not providing enough protection to our soldiers in its present form. “It’s also no secret and I have written about on a number of occasions, it needs a review”, he said, suggesting a review of the AFSPA as he felt that the Act has been diluted post the 2016 Supreme Court judgment and is failing to provide adequate protection to our soldiers.
He gave two reasons for reviewing the Act, he said, “It should be reviewed for two important reasons first is, that it’s become a bad word and it’s a stick that human rights activists and some civil society groups are using to defame the army. I can tell you with confidence that we have an excellent human rights record.”
“Secondly, after the 2016 Supreme Court judgment on AFSPA, 700 officers went to court because the judgment has diluted the AFSPA completely. Because it talked about excessive use of force, how do you judge that? It talked about investigations can be done by any organisation, not necessarily the Army. It also said that the Army people can be tried in criminal courts. So I think the way AFSPA is today it is not providing adequate protection even to our soldiers. there are major problems with it and we seriously need to review it”.