New Delhi: The Indian Army cannot operate in civilian areas without a contentious act that gives it sweeping special powers, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said, amid demands from several quarters that the act be revoked from Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states where it is in operation.
“My department’s role comes into the picture when the army is asked to proceed and act in a certain area. At that time, the army requires protection,” Mr Parrikar told IANS in an interview, referring to the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that is in place in what are termed “disturbed areas”.
Asked about the possibility of revoking the AFSPA, the defence minister said that the subject came under the home ministry, adding it was needed by the army to “proceed and act” in certain areas. He also said immunity to soldiers should be total.
The minister stressed that the army will not go in the civilian areas without the act being in place.
“If that act is not there, the army will not take action. For carrying out counter terror operations, the army requires that power. That power comes from such laws; AFSPA is a major one,” he said.
“If that is not there, the army will not go to a civilian area for operations. The home ministry should decide on the basis of that, after assessing the situation,” Mr Parrikar maintained.
“If the army is required, this act has to be there; otherwise the army cannot operate. Jawans cannot be made to face standard laws,” he contended.