The Armed Forces Special Powers Act, which prohibits prosecutions against soldiers in the Northeast and Jammu and Kashmir without the Centre’s nod, is here to stay, the new army chief said.
General V K Singh ruled out repealing the law saying that the protection it gave helped the army combat situations that had spun out of control.
“The Act gets misunderstood for various reasons. When the army is employed to deal with situations that have gone out of control, you have to provide certain protection,” he said.
Singh said if the AFSPA wasn’t needed, the political leadership would have to take a decision. “But if it is required because you have deployed your army there, it will stay,” he said.
HT had reported on Monday that changes in the Act would have to wait until the army came on board. PM Manmohan Singh had promised to consider changes to AFSPA to make it more humane but the army found a draft prepared by the home ministry too drastic.
Singh said the armed forces needed to “sit down and deliberate much more” on granting permanent commission (PC) to women officers. He said, “We will have to look at the overall effect of PC for women on both male and female officers.”
Singh, who ordered an inquiry into the Sukna land case, said he would focus on improving the army’s internal health. He said soldiers would have to set higher standards of integrity than civilians. “The military has its own value system, which has to be different from civil society... We have to set our culture right and improve the image and dignity of soldiers,” he said.
Singh made it clear that fighting Naxalism wasn’t the military’s business. “It is not a secessionist movement. Our polity is very wise and astute. They know the implications of using the army against their own people. Naxalism is a law and order problem. States are quite capable of dealing with it.”
On J&K, he said infiltration would continue and the army’s success would lie in minimising it. “We have to get these people (infiltrators) before they can inflict damage.”