DAA, AFSPA may go from some areas11 October 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: On the eve of Interlocutors on Jammu and Kashmir submitting their report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today met the Home Minister in the capital and had a detailed meeting with him on revocation of Disturbed Areas Act (DAA) by the State Government and its repercussions. Official sources told the Excelsior that the one-to-one meeting between Mr Abdullah and Mr Chidambaram lasted an hour. Sources said the discussions harped around revocation of the DAA from some parts of the State, which could lead to withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA). The implications of such a decision and the views of Defence Ministry and Army Commanders in Jammu and Kashmir on revocation of DAA were discussed in the meeting. Mr Chidambaram had recently put the ball in the court of State Government on withdrawal of AFSPA from some districts of J&K on the ground that as soon as the DAA is lifted from some areas, the AFSPA would cease to exist there. He was of the view that the State Government could lift the DAA on its own after taking security scenario into account. Sources said the State Government was considering withdrawal of AFSPA from some peaceful districts of the State in the wake of peaceful summer. After the meeting, Omar Abdullah admitted that he discussed possibility of withdrawal of AFSPA and DAA from certain areas of the State with the Home Minister. He said he would discuss the proposal with his Cabinet colleagues and concerned bureaucrats after which a decision would be taken. 'We have to see the areas where the footprints of Army was minimal and then go for revocation of DAA and subsequently AFSPA', Omar said. Both Omar and Chidambaram had a comprehensive review of security situation in the State. Lauding the work done by the Interlocutors during past one year, Mr Abdullah urged the Home Minister to implement their recommendations. The Interlocutors would submit their report to Mr Chidambaram tomorrow in New Delhi. He also called for convening an all party meeting by the Centre to discuss recommendations of the Interlocutors. Phased withdrawal of AFSPA and troop reduction were expected to be the two recommendations of the Interlocutors. Omar said he also apprised the Home Minister about devolution of powers to Panchayats. He added that the Panchayats could be given more powers once they started functioning completely. Sources said the peaceful summer in the Kashmir valley this year figured prominently during the meetings. Steps taken by both Central and State Governments to keep summer peaceful were reviewed, they added. The Chief Minister told the Home Minister that peaceful summer led to development works all across the State in large scale including under the Prime Minister's Re-construction Plan (PMRP), which had come under watch of the Planning Commission recently for slow pace of work. However, he said, the peaceful summer didn't mean that 'we can lower our guard'. The Defence Ministry and Army Commanders in J&K were reportedly opposed to withdrawal of AFSPA in the State. The Defence Ministry as well as Army chief Gen V K Singh had repeatedly raised their voice against any attempt to dilute AFSPA. Meanwhile, differences on the proposed amendment in AFSPA seem to be persisting between the Ministries of Defence and Home and the Government is unlikely to table the bill to this effect in the winter session of Parliament. Sources said the Defence Ministry has strong reservations over certain proposed provisions of AFSPA and has contended that if these come into effect, it would leave the Army severely handicapped to operate in troubled areas of Jammu and Kashmir and some other parts of the country where the Act was in force. The Army has conveyed its apprehensions to the Ministry that replacing AFSPA or any dilution could hamper its operational capabilities to effectively deal with militancy and insurgency. 'Despite best efforts, the Home Ministry has not been able to remove the apprehensions of the Army brass and hence the delay. We don't think the amendment bill will be tabled in the winter session of Parliament,' sources said. The AFSPA gives the Army the powers to detain and, if the situation warrants, eliminate suspected terrorists when they are fighting insurgents without the fear of prosecution. The Act is only in force in some areas in Kashmir and insurgency-affected States in the northeast.