M A I N   N E W S

AFSPA decision put on hold
Opposition mounts; CRPF also says it ‘can’t operate without immunity’
Tribune News Service

New Delhi/Srinagar, Oct 28
A decision on revoking the Disturbed Areas Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) has been deferred. This became clear following a tweet by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who indicated that the issue would be discussed by the state Cabinet after the Darbar moves to Jammu by November 7.

Neither Abdullah’s Cabinet, which met in Srinagar on Friday, nor the Cabinet Committee on Security, which met in New Delhi last evening, apparently discussed the issue even as a debate rages after the CM’s public announcement last week that the controversial laws were about to be revoked from some parts of the state.

Even the core group meeting of the security forces in Srinagar today, chaired by General SA Hasnain, did not have AFSPA on its agenda although it reviewed the situation after five grenade attacks by militants this week.

Home Ministry sources conceded that the Cabinet Committee on Security had favoured gradual withdrawal of AFSPA, which was invoked in J &K in two phases, first in 1990 and thereafter extended in 2001. The Act provided immunity to armed forces (Army, CRPF, BSF, ITBP included) from prosecution for any action taken by them in order to maintain public order. The actions specified in the Act included search, detention, arrest and elimination of suspected terrorists.

While Army Chief General VK Singh refused to comment on the issue, CRPF Director General K Vijay Kumar today categorically asserted that 70 of its battalions deployed in J&K would require some kind of ‘legal cover’ and would not be able to operate without such protection.

His force, the DG clarified, was not concerned with the presence or absence of AFSPA, as long as the protection is there. While he did not spell it out, he apparently was indicating to certain provisions in the CrPC, which, however, is not followed in Jammu & Kashmir. That, or any other law, it seems, would be acceptable to the armed forces as long as it provides them immunity.

Sources, however, maintained that invoking a provision of the CrPC in J&K would be very tough as the same CrPC also allows overriding powers to SHOs.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, meanwhile, urged the government to desist from revoking AFSPA. He had visited the ‘disturbed’ state last year as a member of an all-party delegation and had been informed that over 2,500 applications seeking sanction to prosecute members of the armed forces were pending with the Centre.

Withdrawing AFSPA would not only act as a disincentive to the armed forces, called in to assist the civil administration, but would also ‘incentivise’ seperatists and militants.

Panun Kashmir, the organisation of Kashmiri Pandits, also joined the chorus of protest. Its spokesperson pointed out in Jammu that 15 encounters had taken place between militants and the armed forces on the LoC last month. With as many as 42 terror camps operating across the border, it would be wrong to describe the situation in Kashmir as normal, he added.





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