Jaitley’s remarks on AFSPA leave pro-India camp fuming

Srinagar: The recent statement of India’s Defence Minister Arun Jaitley suggesting continuation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir has angered the pro-India parties who had fought last Assembly elections on the promise of removing the law from the state.
“The remarks of Defence Minister over AFSPA removal are disappointing. There is no justification to continue this law here when the security situation has considerably improved,” senior leader of the ruling National Conference (NC), Mustafa Kamal, told Kashmir Reader Wednesday.
Kamal alleged that AFSPA was being retained to give freehand to army “to carry out Pathribal, Wandhama, and Macchil like incidents, and to benefit some politicians with vested interests.”
Addressing a press conference during his recent maiden two-day visit to Kashmir, Jaitley had evaded a direct reply to a question over the revocation of AFSPA. “As far as the situation is concerned, our armed forces and local security forces have been handling the situation. Over the period of time, we have to watch how the situation progresses,” he had said.
Kamal, who is also the uncle of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, said there was strong fear and apprehension that army might also try to help certain politicians in upcoming Assembly polls “like they did in 2002 and 2008.”
“Army continues to be stubborn on AFSPA revocation. Though militancy is dead, phased revocation from peaceful areas was a good option. You can’t hold a population of 1.20 crore to ransom with this law,” the senior NC leader said. “It’s not Assam, where you can continue AFSPA as long as you want. This law has to go. We’ll fight tooth and nail to get it removed.”
Kamal said that his party has been telling people time and again that AFSPA will be revoked in phases from the Valley. “We kept telling on people that AFSPA will be removed. What will we tell them now? They’ll be very angry with us.”
Terming Jaitley’s statement disappointing, CPI (M) State secretary Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami said that time was ripe for the AFSPA to go, because the graph of militancy was on decline and the infiltration attempts along the Line of Control (LoC) were also lesser.
“The statement of Defence Minister is disappointing for all the people irrespective of their political affiliations. There is a big and visible change in the ground situation which even the security experts acknowledge. AFSPA should go now,” he said.
Tarigami, who is also a member of the recently formed Awami Mutahida Mahaz (AMM), a conglomerate of many pro-India parties, said that AMM will raise the issue of AFSPA revocation in the coming days.
The main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) while stressing on the need for AFSPA removal, blamed Omar Abdullah-led coalition government for failing to revoke it.
“AFSPA has to be revoked. However, only a strong leader like Mufti Sahab can do it. A Chief Minister, who has even given powers of opening a primary school to New Delhi, can’t revoke AFSPA. On New Delhi’s one-liner, he gave Jammu Kashmir Bank (JKB) to them,” senior PDP leader, Sartaj Madni said.
He said Omar Abdullah was a “weak” Chief Minister, who could do nothing but plead ignorance when Mohammad Afzal Guru was hanged and over 120 people were killed in the summer unrest of 2010.
“Omar has failed to deliver. He has failed to keep his promises,” Madni added.