PC to look into Armed Forces Special Powers Act

Govt taking steps to initiate talks with all sections of Kashmiris

He also promised to look into the law which gives special powers to the armed forces.
Chidambaram told a press conference here that the “Kashmir problem has political dimensions and need to be addressed through a solution. The solution comes out through a dialogue. The Central government will start the process of talks with all sections of the people at an appropriate time.”

Against the backdrop of agitations over the alleged rape and murder of two women at Shopian, Chidambaram said: “The Centre will look into the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and consider every essential aspect. The issue was flagged off two months back between me and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. We decided to look into the issue after the Lok Sabha polls.”

The home minister, however, ruled out withdrawal of the AFSPA now though he would discuss the issue with the PM and the defence minister.

The home minister’s statement comes at a time when most separatist leaders, including hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani, were arrested during the protests against the alleged rape and murder of a teenaged girl and her pregnant sister-in-law in the Shopian district of south Kashmir. The home minister justified the arrests saying the separatists were disrupting the normal life and the pace of development.

“Moderate and peaceful protests are permitted in democracy. But, disrupting the normal life and development with such protests is not allowed. The path of agitation in Kashmir is on the rise,” Chidambaram said.

Barring Geelani, all the arrested leaders have been booked under the Public Safety Act, a law under which a person can be detained for one to two years without a trial in court.
In view of the home minister’s statement, the separatist leaders can be released in case they agree to enter into the dialogue process with the Union government.

In the past, the NDA government and then the UPA ministry had held several rounds of talks with the separatists leaders of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mohammad Yasin Malik’s Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front. But, the talks process got stalled after the separatists refused to attend Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s round table conference here. They claimed that they would not share the table with the mainstream leaders and even alleged that the Centre was not sincere about the talks.

Since then, the separatists and some mainstream parties like the PDP have been calling for revoking the AFSPA.

The home minister stated that the army “has the responsibility for conventional” defence on the borders and also countering infiltration and terrorism. “While the violence level has been reduced inside the state, the attempts of infiltration continue. The infiltrators are being killed or arrested on the LoC but some manage to cross over,” Chidambaram said.

Primary responsibility

According to him, the maintenance of law and order in inside the state “is the primary responsibility” of the state government and the army’s help can be also sought when needed. He said the government had the intention to redraw responsibilities among the police and the forces. The process would take some time.

He said the chief minister had briefed him on the Shopian incident. “The state government wants to conduct a thorough probe and punish the guilty,” Chidambaram said.
DH News Service

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