M A I N   N E W S

PC backs Omar on AFSPA, says CCS wanted a review
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 31
Clarifying that the latest debate on removing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some areas of Jammu and Kashmir was not a knee-jerk reaction, Union Home Minister P Chidambaram today said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had given its go-ahead as part of an eight-point agenda for the state announced in September last year.

Just 10 days ago, Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah announced that it was time for the AFSPA to go in certain areas and even hinted at a deadline. The J&K unit of the Congress flared up, with Saif-ud-din Soz objecting to Omar’s announcement, saying the Congress was not consulted on the matter. The BJP and the Hindu-dominated Jammu region joined the chorus of protest.

Today, Chidambaram treaded carefully and was firm on how the review was a wider political decision. “The process of the review is a CCS decision of restoring normalcy in the state and this is not something unusual. Let the Chief Minister come back to us after conducting a review. This is a CCS decision and I am part of the CCS,” he said.

There is “nothing unusual or new” if the Chief Minister of the state wants to quicken the process of review of AFSPA, he said.

“If Congress, an ally of the coalition government in the state, desires “more consultations”, that is perfectly understandable. There can be more consultations in the Cabinet too. In a democracy, we can have consultations any number of times,” he said.

Speaking to reporters here this afternoon, the Home Minister cited how the apex decision-making body on security matters, the CCS, had mandated in September 2010… “request the State Government to …. review the deployment of security forces in the Kashmir Valley, especially Srinagar, with particular reference to de-scaling the number of bunkers, check-points…. in Srinagar and other towns, and to review the notification of areas as disturbed areas”.

The ‘disturbed areas’ referred to in the CCS note were areas listed as ‘disturbed’ under Section 3 of the AFSPA. This section empowers the Central Government and the Governor of the State to declare an area as ‘disturbed’. There is no connection with any other Act like the Disturbed Areas Act, said a top official.

Highly placed sources in the Government today clarified that it was a misnomer that the Disturbed Areas Act and the AFSPA were linked to each other. “Both acts are independent of each other,” said a senior functionary while explaining that the DAA lapsed in 1998. It was an act passed by the J&K Assembly. The AFPSA was imposed in 1990 by an Act of Parliament. It is not true that once the DAA is removed, the AFSPA is automatically revoked, said the official.

Declaration of an area as a disturbed one under AFSPA can be undone only through a notification and once that is done, the AFSPA does not apply to that area. The Centre had identified Srinagar and Budgam as two districts wherein the ‘disturbed areas’ tag could possibly be removed. Slowly, the Army had moved out of these areas and handed over large parts to the paramilitary forces.





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