Kashmir lawyers call strike for revocation of security laws

[JURIST] Lawyers in Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday called a one-day strike [AP report] to demand the revocation of what they consider to be harsh emergency laws within their revolt-ridden region. The laws, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) [text] and the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) [text], were introduced in India in 1990, and both grant significant authority to the country's army and paramilitary forces to detain people, destroy property, enter, search, and seize without warrant, arrest without warrant, and even use deadly force. The demonstration was led by the Kashmir Bar Association (KBA), [website] whose members met on November 29 and unanimously agreed that they would refrain from entering Kashmir courthouses on Thursday in protest of a government proposal for amending the Jammu and Kashmir criminal procedure rules to incorporate provisions of the AFSPA, which would afford the Armed Forces greater protection from prosecution. The KBA issued its perspective [press release] following the meeting:

[T]he amendment in the Cr.P.C. and RPC to create a protective cover for the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir is virtually incorporation of the provisions of AFSPA and create permanent protection to the Armed Forces for their anti-human actions and Bar Association should resist such a move and educate the public at large and political parties should mobilize public opinion against this state adventure.
Although Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah [personal website] has publicly stated that the revocation of the AFSPA is inevitable, the KBA believes these revisions to the criminal code may be the government's way of preserving AFSPA protections. Abdullah, on the other hand, has asserted that state government could consider restoring these criminal procedure rules to ensure that the region's security forces are simply given the same protections afforded to those in other parts of the country.

Kashmir has consistently faced criticism of its laws over the course of the year, particularly in light of the uneasy circumstances throughout the region. In October, Abdullah's government amended [JURIST report] its highly-criticized Public Safety Act (PSA) [text], which formerly treated those persons 16 years and older as adults, allowing them to be arrested. Jammu and Kashmir has been plagued with unrest [JURIST report] since it became part of India in the middle of the twentieth century. Although the state is officially part of India, the territory has been disputed by Pakistan and India since 1947. This friction within the region has led to several conflicts, including the Indo-Pakistan wars of 1947-1948 and 1965. There was also a large show of military force by both nations in the region in 2002 which caused international alarm in light of both nations possessing nuclear weapons. India has long-attempted to parry the unrest and a burgeoning separatist movement in the region by detaining human rights political activists.

 

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