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'Militants can strike with or without AFSPA'

March 23, 2013
Irom Sharmila (Centre) has been on a fast for the last 12 years, protesting against use of Armed Forces Special Powers) Act in Kashmir and parts of the North-East. The law gives troops the right to shoot to kill suspected rebels in conflict areas without fear of possible prosecution and to arrest suspected militants without a warrant.

Additional General Secretary of ruling National Conference, Sheikh Mustafa Kamal, who is younger brother of Union Minister Farooq Abdullah, is known for his anti-Army and anti-Congress pronouncements. In an interview with Zulfikar Majid of Deccan Herald, he says that if Army wants peace in Kashmir, it should not oppose the revocation of AFSPA.

Excerpts:

In the wake of recent surge in militancy-related incidents in Kashmir, how will you justify your party’s demand for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA)?
If AFSPA is cure for militancy, why such incidents have been occurring for almost two-and-a-half decades? The person who comes to attack (fidayeen) comes to die and you can’t stop him with AFSPA. This Act gives unbridled powers to the security forces and it is absolutely clear it has been of little or no benefit in eliminating militancy in more than two decades.

Recently union home minister stated that there has been no formal request from the state government for scrapping the Act? Don’t you think your party is playing politics over the issue?

Our coalition partner Congress isn’t onboard on the issue. The Chief Minister doesn’t have mandate to write to the Centre when half of the state government, which is Congress, doesn’t agree. The CM has discussed it (revocation of AFSPA) at the highest level. But he (CM Omar Abdullah) can’t write formally till he doesn’t have other half of the government (Congress) with him.

Has your government taken Centre into confidence on the issue?

Government of India is in favour of revoking AFSPA but it is Army which is resisting. Why should we force the issue? Why shouldn’t we convince Delhi..., and I tell you most of the people there are convinced. It is only Defence Ministry and Army which is resisting.

If Army has apprehensions about revocation of the Act, why is your government so desperate for its revocation?


The purpose of this Act is to allow the Army and other paramilitary forces to assist civil administration. If Chief Executive (Chief Minister) of the civil administration says there is no need for such Act now, I don’t think there should be any problem for the Army if it is revoked.

But Army maintains revocation of AFSPA will provide safe sanctuaries to militants?

We all know how Army and security personnel have been involved in the killing of civilians and how can a civilian killing be justified. Army doesn’t want peace in Kashmir for obvious reasons. If they want peace in Kashmir, then they should not oppose the revocation of AFSPA. It should at least be revoked in the peaceful areas. Militants can strike with or without AFSPA, so it is wrong to say AFSPA is necessary to maintain peace.

Don’t you think revocation of the Act will encourage militancy in the state?

This is a wrong notion. There is no reasoning backing it. There is a root cause for militancy and if only symptoms are tackled, it won’t help. We have to eradicate the root cause of militancy.

In your opinion, what is the reason for recent surge in violence in Kashmir?


These are desperate attempts by the elements who are hell bent to set Kashmir on fire. They include separatists and Pakistan-based United Jihad Council. But I tell you they will fail in their attempts to push Kashmir back to violence.

What is your assessment about situation in 2013 and 2014?

I certainly see a better 2013. I am convinced that 2014, which is an election year, will be stable. There won’t be any impact of violence on tourist flow to Kashmir this year.

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