Union home minister Rajnath Singh has hinted that there will be no relaxation in the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The minister's statement comes a day after vice-president Hamid Ansari nudged the government on the alleged “misuse” of the act. Rajnath Singh said although there was a perceptible change in the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, the government would wait before considering any relaxation in AFSPA. Singh’s answer is an iteration of Narendra Modi government’s hardline stand on AFSPA. Since the Modi government took over in May this year, hopes for AFSPA to be abrogated or even relaxed have been dashed. Manipur has been demanding repeal of the act that gives the army sweeping powers even to kill on suspicion. Manipur’s rights crusader Irom Sharmila has been on a hunger strike since November 2000, seeking repeal of the act. Former home minister P Chidambaram had openly endorsed reworking the act, but the defence ministry during the UPA administration had toed the army line. While the NDA government appears to have a consensus on not tinkering with the act, a nudge came from Ansari yesterday. A Supreme Court-appointed commission, headed by Justice Santosh Hegde, had last year noted after investigating six cases of AFSPA misuse in Manipur that the continuous use of the act evidently had little or no effect in Manipur. Singh’s statement in context with the AFSPA, however, did not include any concerns on alleged human rights violations either in Jammu and Kashmir or in the Northeast. In the backlash and opposition that followed, the government had to constitute the Justice Jeevan Reddy Committee to look into the continuation of AFSPA. The Hegde Commission agreed with the Reddy committee’s report, which said that AFSPA had become a symbol of oppression, an object of hate and an instrument of discrimination and high-handedness.
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