Jammu: Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Saturday termed India’s Defence Minister AK Antony as “big impediment” in the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from Jammu and Kashmir “even after Prime Minister and Home Minister were in support of its revocation.”
Abdullah, however, said his government was still committed to start the gradual revocation of the AFSPA from the state during his tenure.
“My government started the process for revocation of AFSPA from the state. Even the then Union Home Minister was on same page with us. We even took up the matter with Prime Minister of India. He was also interested in it and wanted consent of the Defence Minister, but even he could not convince him,” Abdullah told the Legislative Assembly in reply to the discussion on grants for the departments held by him.
He said it was “unfortunate that Defence Minister, who only listens to the voices from military instead of elected civil government, did not support the revocation of AFSPA,” which provides impunity to troops operating in the state.
“He (Defence Minister) was falsely intimidated that revocation of AFSPA would not be good move as situation could be worse after 2010. We were asked to wait, and we waited for another year, but last year he was again told that situation in Kashmir can turn bad after withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan and hence AFSPA is needed,” Abdullah said.
He said he does not understand how NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan would effect the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “What we need is to improve vigil on the borders.”
Abdullah said that he never demanded complete revocation of AFSPA from the state, but he always said that his government will initiate the process of its gradual revocation.
“I am hopeful that my government will initiate the process of gradual revocation of AFSPA. We still have ample time till next elections and we will do it,” Abdullah said.
He said his government “played a great role in bringing normalcy in the state,” as during his term militancy-related incidents came down by 70 per cent. “This has not come of its own. This is not a miracle. This is outcome of our hard labor and sacrifices,” he said.
The Chief Minister said that during his tenure presences of forces in the state was diminished and buildings were vacated from their occupation. “Out of 40 occupied schools buildings in the state 37 were vacated, and out of 44 occupied industrial units, 30 were vacated, while as out of 60 hotels 33 were vacated. Besides 50 bunkers were removed from Srinagar city,” he said.
Abdullah said his government is looking into shifting of Army’s firing range from Tosmaidan to some alternative place and bring it under the tourist map. He said a committee headed by Chief Secretary and comprising both civil and Army officials as its members has been constituted, and it will look for an alternative place for Army’s firing range, and Tosmaidan will be developed as tourist destination.
He said his government has been wrongly criticized for not issuing passports to former militants and their relatives. “This year we have cleared thousands of pending cases and issued passports to them. But there is a set criteria for it under which only those ex-militants will be given passports who have surrendered 10 years ago or were released 12 years ago,” he said. However, he said the government is thinking to relax these rules further as still large chunk of population is left out without passports.
Terming the Army’s decision of closure of Patribal fake encounter case as “travesty of justice” and “unacceptable”, Abdullah said his government has taken up the matter with the Prime Minister who has assured him to discuss it with Defence Minister.
“This travesty of justice…this will not be accepted…Murder is murder. The truth will prevail and justice will be delivered. It will be big failure of our government if guilty are not punished,” he said, adding that the people who were killed were innocent whose faces were mutilated and later buried.
“The CBI has confirmed that it was fake encounter. If Army’s court has not found the accused the guilty of this crime then they should identify actual guilty,” Abdullah said.
He also rejected the criticism of his rehabilitation policy for ex-militants saying that “when there could be a surrender policy for active militants implemented during the time of NDA why can’t be there a policy for those who have crossed LoC and want to return and live peaceful life.” He said under the policy so far 308 militants have returned to the state along with their families and are living peacefully.
Regarding the use of non-lethal weapons on protesters, he said his government never wanted to use these weapons, but these are used only after police are attacked with stones.
“I want to tell the parents to be responsible and keep their children away from indulging in unlawful activities like stone pelting as it is no answer to any problem,” he said.