Cong leaders differ over AFSPA

Days after senior Congress leader P Chidambaram demanded revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir, the party’s deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, Amarinder Singh has made a strong pitch in favour of the controversial law.

Singh, a former Army officer, opposed any move to review the AFSPA and argued the law that grants men in uniform immunity from prosecution was being used under exceptional circumstances.

Batting in favour of the law, he said there was no need to revoke it at this stage as there was no alternative to it. The former Punjab chief minister was speaking to reporters after the launch of his book “Honour and Fidelity: India’s Contribution to the Great War 1914-18” on Saturday evening.

“Our soldiers are fighting a very difficult war being fired upon from everywhere; left, right, from behind and front and they need some legal protection,” Singh said. His remarks after former home minister P Chidambaram kicked up a row with his remarks that the “obnoxious” AFSPA had no place in a modern and civilised country.

“It is not that the law is being abused or misused and isolated instances of aberrations by certain individuals must not be used against the AFSPA,” Singh said pointing out that the Army had sentenced to life five of its personnel who were found guilty of the in the infamous Machil encounter case.

He said, at times there are some mistakes committed by the soldiers which are firmly dealt with, but that should not mean the law should be repealed or withdrawn.

Chidambaram’s remarks were welcomed by Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. As Union Home Minister, Chidambaram had in 2010 initiated the process for revocation of AFSPA but could not convince the top leaders of the party to back the move.
The Modi government criticised Chidambaram’s remarks as “opportunistic”. Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju had said the Congress leader had made the remarks with an eye on the assembly elections in Jammu and Kashmir.

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