Debate on AFSPA
By Brigadier Arun Bajpai (retd)
Despite Indian Army led Joint Command vehemently opposing the CM of Kashmir Omar Abdullah’s brain child of partially removing Armed Forces Special Powers Act from certain areas of the J&K State, Abdullah has given an ultimatum that he will not accept any negative response. The paramilitary forces like BSF and CRPF being with Abdullah it is now Army vs Abdullah in J&K.
Omar Abdullah with his popularity plummeting in the J&K State in last three years of his supposed misrule, administrative lapses, unchecked corruption leading to violent street demonstration by the people and the recent death of his own senior party worker. Abdullah is obviously playing to the gallery. He wants to remove AFSPA from some of the 22 Districts of J&K where he feels that insurgency has been contained. Needless to say Abdullah is catching at the last straw to regain his lost public image by playing on sentiments of local people at the cost of national interest.
It is true that currently there is comparative calm in the Valley. Record numbers of tourists have turned up there in this season. Nevertheless two internal committees set up by Omar Abdulla himself have advised him against making haste in removing AFSPA. The Congress Party which is part of the Omar Abdullah coalition Government, its tallest leader in Valley Saifuddin Soz has made a public statement saying that militancy is still thriving in the Valley and that Abdullah has not consulted him in his desire of partial removal of AFSPA. Reportedly Rahul Gandhi has gagged him and his party to be silent on the issue.
Recently, Lt General Sayyed Atta Hasnain the General Officer Commanding 14 Corps and responsible for the Valley had made a presentation to Omar Abdullah. In his presentation General Hasnan has stated that removal of AFSPA is not just based on local conditions but has major ramifications. There has been ear marked increase in cross border infiltration. In PoK, ISI is still running 42 jehadi training camps. As per the assessment of Intelligence agencies there are 2500 jehadis across the border waiting to get into Valley. This is an all time high figure. Recently even Americans have been warning India of this existing threat.
Let us not forget that it was the rigged elections in J&K in 1988 under the sponsorship of then Congress Government at Centre and the Abdullah party in State which has resulted in this insurgency in Kashmir. In last two decades thousands of security persons have been martyred and more than 42,000 innocent civil populations have lost their lives. The current peace has been obtained at this exorbitant cost and it can not be held ransom to Omar Abdullah’s political ambitions.
Army is rightly against partial lifting of AFSPA from certain districts in J&K State because then Army will be ineffective here and the jeahdis from across the border will make a bee line for these areas for rest and relief. Making these districts as their base they will sally out to launch terror attacks in other areas. Abdullah’s statement that if need be he will reimpose this act here shows his naivety and holds no water. It has taken Army two decades to build its intelligence network in the Kashmir valley. In militancy prone states it is not guns and bullets of which Army has no dearth but the local intelligence that delivers the results. If AFSPA is removed from here then this will die its own death and army will be left high and dry.
The AFSPA allows Army to fire upon and even cause death against any person working in contravention of law and order in an area declared disturbed by the state government. They can arrest any person without warrant but will have to hand over the same to police within 48 hours. They can destroy any arms dumps, terror training centers etc. No prosecution suit or legal proceedings can be initiated against Army Personnel without the sanction of the Central Government. It will be appreciated that almost the same powers are also available to local police but unlike police, Army is not answerable to local politicians like Omar Abdullah. This is what irks these politicians because they want Army also to dance at their tune so they target AFSPA.
It is time the Central Government stands firm and ensures that Omar Abdullah does not pursue his foolhardy desire to partially lift AFSPA. This will lead to so many other untenable demands. AFSPA is a time tested Act which has constitutional validity and also been held correct by Supreme Court. If Omar Abdullah and Chidambaram who is supporting this move of Omar Abdullah are still adamant then let them declare the entire Valley as undisturbed and remove AFSPA. Army will gladly leave Kashmir Valley. Then let Omar Abdullah, his police and Paramilitary forces run the show in the Valley. This is also right thing to do in a democracy. Internal Security is not the responsibility of the Army. But Abdullah can not have his cake and eat it too by keeping the Army also in the Valley and then demanding to curtail its powers.