Kashmir should decide on armed forces special powers: Pillai

Friday, January 14, 2011

NEW DELHI - The Jammu and Kashmir administration should take a decision on the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives impunity to armed forces in their anti-terror operations, Home Secretary G.K. Pillai said Friday.

“Why cannot the state government take a decision, take a leap of faith and notify that all of Jammu and Kashmir or parts of it are not disturbed now? The Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFPSA) applies to the areas which state governments notify as disturbed. If the area is no longer disturbed, the AFSPA doesn’t apply,” Pillai said at a seminar on Kashmir at the Jamia Millia University here.

Pillai said state police officers in Jammu and Kashmir and army commanders would be meeting soon to debate on the Disturbed Areas Act (DAA), which was enacted in the state in 1990 when the armed rebellion began in the state.

The state government has the powers to declare the whole or any part of any district of Jammu and Kashmir a disturbed area — following this, the government enacts AFSPA granting the military wide powers of arrest, the right to shoot to kill and to occupy or destroy property in counter-insurgency operations.

Removal or dilution of the AFPSA is a contentious issue as the government itself is divided over it.

The home ministry, it is reliably learnt, wants the act to be removed from parts of the state where militancy related violence has remarkably reduced. But the defence ministry is opposed to the idea because it believes that the act is a “necessary security blanket” which the army needs to fight terrorism.

Kashmiri politicians are demanding the withdrawal of the AFSPA to assuage the hurt feelings of the people of the state because there have been accusations that the armed forces have misused the powers and have committed human rights violations in the garb of collateral damage during anti-militancy operations.

The state government has also recommended that the act should be diluted or removed from parts of Jammu and Kashmir. However, Pillai has now pushed the ball in Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s court.

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