writings of ali ahmed ...with due acknowledgement and thanks to publications where these have appeared. Download books/papers from dropbox links provided. Follow on twitter: @aliahd66
Also blogs at - www.subcontinentalmusings.blogspot.in. Have been a UN official, academic and infantryman. Currently, am visiting professor at the Nelson Mandela Center for Peace and Conflict Resolution, Jamia Millia Islamia.
Human Rights and Armed Forces in Low Intensity Conflict by K.S. Sheoran
The book is the result of the author's sabbatical with the National Human
Rights Commission and the Centre for Land Warfare Studies to research 'all
aspects of human rights in the context of the employment of the armed forces for
internal security duties'. Only the first chapter of two and half pages carries
any content on human rights. The remainder is a distillation of the army's
Doctrine for Sub Conventional Operations (DSCO) (Shimla, HQ ARTRAC, 2006)
available on the internet at
are four attached appendices that are human rights related, but are again from
the DSCO. In fact Appendix A reproduces Chapter 7 of the DSCO, 'Human Rights',
verbatim. A chapter entitled 'Media Dynamics and Human Rights' again disappoints
by focusing on the military-media relationship rather than human rights.
The issue of human rights should have been left out of the title because the
book otherwise quite ably covers the subject of 'Armed Forces in Low Intensity
Conflicts'. But even here the book does not venture beyond the DSCO. This gives
rise to the question, 'What purpose has been served?' And a wider question as to
what the sabbatical was about. It is a pity that the opportunity for informed
comment on the issue and a much debated subject like the Armed Forces Special
Powers Act (AFSPA), has been passed up. The author's first-hand engagement with
the subject as a military professional, his access to its nuances at the
National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and research possibilities at Center for
Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) have been sub-optimally utilised in this monograph.
The author could compensate by taking up the issue once again in a subsequent
edition by incorporating his experience at his present posting on the general
staff in charge of human rights at the Corps HQ in Srinagar.
The author, in his take, makes a contestable equation between human rights
and fundamental rights. While there is an understandable correspondence between
the two, fundamental rights are a contract between the state and its citizens.
Human rights instead are intrinsic to people on account of their being human,
which means that there are also some 'hard core rights' that are not liable to
abridgement by national laws or constitutions. Fundamental rights as we know can
be held in abeyance in periods of national emergency or amended by appropriate
legislation. The concept of human rights instead made the individual the
referent and sought to preserve, protect and advance human rights of the
individual and the collective, taking the issue beyond the scope of nation and
state. The experience of the twentieth century dictated this. While in India's
case, fundamental rights guarantee basic freedoms and human rights, it is
important to maintain this distinction.
Getting this distinction right is crucial since its absence gives rise to the
flawed logic that 'Where there is terrorism, there cannot be human rights' (p.
4). 'Hard core' human rights, specifically against arbitrary killing and
torture, exist at all times for all, including foreign terrorists on Indian
soil. The Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention covers these, and they are
valid even in internal security situations and have been incorporated into
national legislation. This is true for low intensity conflicts, deemed different
from insurgencies in terms of the levels of external interference. The case is
made that the external factor legitimises not only army deployment but a tougher
line. This risks overlooking the human terrain comprising Indian citizens and
the fact that a majority of the fighters are Indian citizens even under maximum
levels of proxy war.
A permissive environment for egregious measures, referred to in the foreword
by the director of CLAWS, is created by focusing on the external factor for
distinguishing a low intensity conflict from an insurgency. The author takes a
'clash' between the two as being inevitable. He writes, 'This is the basic point
of clash between the goals of achieving internal security and the observance of
human rights' (p. 4). He urges the state to 'remain fully aware of its
obligations to prevent occurrence of such instances and take prompt measures to
check them' (p. 4). The contention here is that this conceptual understanding of
the army contributes to its predicament in such situations.
What the author describes as 'insolence', or disaffection and alienation from
the state, then develops. This is the response of the citizenry not only to
violations of the hard core rights of local fighters but also to the
infringements of its soft core rights. It makes strategic sense in countering
insurgency or proxy war to privilege human rights, lest the situation get worse
before it gets any better. This trajectory of violence has been true in most of
India's counter-insurgency engagements, whether externally inspired or not,
ranging from Mizoram, referred to as a successful case, to Kashmir. Whereas in
the former the policy of grouping infringed on soft core rights, in Kashmir the
existence and work of the non-governmental organisation 'Association of Parents
of Disappeared People' indicates the levels of departure from doctrinal tenets
by security forces. For the army to forever prefix 'allegations of' when
referring to violations is to be more conscious of self-image than the
possibility that the image may not match the reality. The author in not having
answered the question, 'But, are these violations a reality and are the armed
forces really at fault?' does not help to resolve this debate in any way.
Given that the book is a research effort, it could have benefited from a
bibliography. Its scant footnotes otherwise suggest that the sabbatical
programme of the army could do with some improvement, particularly in terms of
the officers being permitted to speak their minds. This would not only benefit
them and the institution, but also the attentive public keenly interested in the
army's viewpoint and ever ready to be persuaded by its case.