The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the BJP are expected to form a government in the coming days, and are busy framing their common minimum programme (CMP). It has become clear that in the recent assembly elections the Muslims have voted for the PDP and the Hindus for the BJP. The parties, therefore, have to behave accordingly. The BJP is clear in its stand and agenda. The problem lies with the so-called secular parties, including the PDP. While nobody from the Valley advocates or promotes communalism, the PDP must keep its eyes wide open while finalizing the CMP. It should not allow its secular outlook to be manipulated into imperiling the interests of the Muslims, especially in the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal areas.
The separatists, and lately the Kashmir-based pro-India camp, have been vehemently seeking the repeal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), but will it (repeal) really make any difference? The AFSPA is a black law because it provides impunity to the armed forces, something already existing under Section 549 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) which, in fact, is far more draconian. But since it figures in ordinary law, it is by and large overlooked by human rights defenders. Also, it gives accused personnel the option to choose between court martial and civilian trial. Though the CrPC was enacted back in the nineteenth century, few have commented on its deadly fangs. In actual practice, its Section 549 has overtaken Section 6 of the AFSPA in providing blanket immunity to the armed forces, making impunity a feature of normal criminal jurisprudence, and in effect rendering Section 6 of the AFSPA redundant. Repealing the AFSPA would make no difference so long as the Section 549 of the CrPC remains.
What should, therefore, go into the CMP? The people of the Chenab Valley and the Pir Panjal areas have been demanding autonomous Hill Councils for their respective regions, but communal forces have been resisting it. The latter have also managed to force successive state governments, including the PDP-Congress regime of 2002-2008, to put the issue on hold. The PDP now has a chance to rectify the wrong it committed in its earlier tenure. The party must also remain cautious about proposals being mooted with respect to the WPRs, and prevent yet another nefariously-inspired move from succeeding. Can the PDP show some courage this time?