Rethink revoking AFSPA in Valley
There is no doubt that peace is returning to J&K but an appropriate time to revoke the AFSPA is yet to come.
Prevalent security situation and militancy and revoking the AFSPA from J&K do not augur well for the safety and security of the common masses. Serious analysis of factual ground situation must be done by the Central and state governments before taking a final call on this extremely sensitive issue. Any hasty and impulsive decision might be detrimental to the interests of common population of the state.
The people of J&K have suffered enough due to hasty actions in the past and want sustained peace in the Valley. They want to live without fear and threat to their lives and property. They want to be assured that terrorists will be kept under total check by security forces through their effective action.
Recent attacks on mobile tower operators paralysed the communication services in the Valley for almost eight days. This clearly displays the region’s security situation. The terrorists took the public to ransom. The situation is yet to be restored to full normalcy as more than 270 mobile towers in the Valley are still out of service.
There is no doubt that peace is returning to the Valley but an appropriate time to revoke the AFSPA in J&K is yet to come. The State Police is yet to formulate its strategy and implementation methodology with an equal capability to counter militants and ensure safety of common people without seeking any support from the Army.
Once the State Police considers itself capable of tackling the security situation independently, and the Central as well as the state governments become confident that the role of the Army towards restoration of peace has been accomplished, and that the situation can be handled by the police, the revoking of AFSPA can be considered by them.
The recent incidents of neutralisation of four militants in Tangdhar by the Army, attack on mobile communication operators by militants and submission of local population to dictates of militants due to threats to their lives and property, show the precarious security situation in the Valley and the lack of readiness of the State Police to handle the situation on their own. In the existing circumstances, people of J&K are under threat from the militants, and the local populace feels the need for the Army. They are, however, hesitant to express their feelings openly.
Individually, they are very candid in conveying that the Army’s presence in the Valley makes them feel secure. They fear that the removal of the Army might embolden militants. It is not only the local population but also the security forces personnel who have sacrificed much for ensuring peace in the Valley. Given this, one must consider that the revocation of the AFSPA may lead to more killings.
We all understand that responsibility can be ensured only by an accountable authority. Since, neither the prevailing security situation permits nor the local population favour any change in the existing security, revoking of AFSPA is not feasible, yet. The Defence Minister has rightly clarified that provisions of the AFSPA cannot be diluted as long as the Army remains deployed in J&K.
The issue of revoking the AFSPA has been blown out of proportion by all those vested interests who have scant regard for the common populace. Governments will have to take a call on revoking AFSPA at an appropriate time when they are thoroughly convinced that counter-insurgency operations have been successfully completed and normal peace has returned, as it existed in 1987.
Meanwhile, the secure environment created due to the presence of the Army in the hinterland needs to be exploited for executing maximum development projects by the state civil administration.
(The writer is a former Research Fellow of Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi and presently working in North Kashmir)