AFSPA has outlived its utility in J&K: Mehbooba

Reacting to Army chief General Bikram Singh's remarks on revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the presence of the Army in Kashmir, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday said the controversial act could not be a permanent feature of governance in Jammu and Kashmir.

“The AFSPA has outlived its utility and J&K is ready for full restoration of fundamental rights, which are severely restricted by such laws,” PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said. She added that the people of J&K have repeatedly reaffirmed their faith on democratic process and it was time that the Centre responded positively to the growing democratic culture in the state.

She said while elections and people’s participation were essential for democratic polity. “Democracy in the state will lack vibrancy as long as the civil institutions, judiciary and elected bodies don’t feel fully empowered, as in rest of the country,” she said.

The PDP president said the AFSPA was enacted at a time when thousands of young people, disillusioned with the democratic process, were forced to pick up guns. “But now, according to the government’s own statistics, there are only a few militants operating in the state. To win over even the last alienated young person, it is necessary that democracy and its institutions are fully functional and able to address and accommodate other views,” she said.

Referring to the recommendations made from time to time on the subject, Mufti said a special working group appointed by the prime minister had recommended rollback of the AFSPA. “Gun and force from either side will not resolve the problem. Instead, it is democracy, engagement and dialogue that are needed for a permanent settlement of the problem,” Mehbooba said.

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