Excuses for human rights violations

It is no secret that security forces engaged in areas declared “disturbed” commit egregious violations of human rights. Statutes such as the Disturbed Areas Act or the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act give the security forces legal immunity against gross violations of human rights, going to the extent of murder of the innocent. The State invariably stands by the side of the myrmidons of the law even if they violate the law. These are usually passed off as “encounter deaths”. It is rarely, very rarely, that their guilt is established in a court of law after long drawn legal battles that may stretch for years, even decades, and the guilty are eventually punished.
Recently the Supreme Court ordered a CBI probe into the encounter deaths in Manipur between 2000 and 2010. This has raised the hackles of the security forces. The State Counsel dutifully appearing on their behalf in the apex court argued that the court-monitored investigations and charge-sheets had lowered the morale of the security personnel. They were “shaken” and feared “persecution” (pray, by whom?). After all, they were “doing their duty” to “save” the country. The court, they pleaded, should “understand the difficulties of the battlefield.” But battle with whom, unarmed citizens?
The State Counsel pleaded with the Supreme Court for devising a mechanism which will safeguard the soldiers’ resolve while prevent them from being ‘trigger-happy’. Justices Madan B. Lokur and U. U. Lalit constituting the Division Bench pointedly asked the State Counsel: “Who has stopped you from coming out with such a mechanism? Why do you require our intervention? These are issues which you have to discuss, not us.”  The apex court made it clear that if the probe body found evidence then the proceedings against the accused officers and men would go on because human life should have some value and an investigation is mandated when a citizen has lost his or her life.
Those familiar with the ground situation wherever anti-insurgency laws are in force know that it is the immunity against prosecution in a court of law even if a member of the security forces has grossly abused his powers that makes the policeman or the soldier trigger-happy, He knows that even if he is guilty of a cold-blooded murder, the law cannot touch him. He is immune from the law. This perception has to change. The message has to be driven home to the members of the security forces that killing an innocent by them is as much a crime as killing by the insurgents.

Tuesday, 4 December, 2018