CRPF Amenable To AFSPA Withdrawal From J&K28 October 2011
Times of India
New Delhi: The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), which has deployed about 70,000 personnel in Jammu and Kashmir, is amenable to the withdrawal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas as it feels the 'immunity' to its men under other law is 'enough' to fight militants when 'overall security situation has improved' in the state. The paramilitary force that is also at the forefront in fighting terrorism has reduced its overall deployment by nearly 13,000 personnel from different areas in the state in the past few months. CRPF has whittled down its 'actual' level of deployment from 548 to 417 companies, thanks to the prevailing normalcy. Though the CRPF's stand has no takers in the defence ministry, which is opposed to the withdrawal of the AFSPA, the feeler prompted the home ministry to lend its support to J&K CM Omar Abdullah, who wants to revoke the law from areas that are largely free from violence. Undeterred of the Tuesday's grenade attack in which three of his men got injured in Srinagar, CRPF chief K Vijay Kumar on Friday said the overall security situation in the state had certainly improved and it (2011) was one of the best years. He hinted that the time was ripe to take a decision on withdrawal that could show some perceptible change. He was addressing a press conference ahead of the CRPF's 72nd anniversary that will be observed on November 1. Besides deploying 70 Battalions (nearly 70,000 personnel) in J&K, the force has its 56 Battalions in Maoist-affected states and 34 battalions in the north-eastern states. Stating that the 'CRPF will go by the home ministry's stand' on withdrawal of the AFSPA, Kumar said the force had two requirements - 'protection against prosecution' and 'immunity against action (operation)' - and he believed that both provisions were there under Section 197 (Clause 2) of the CrPC Act and under Ranbir Penal Code that was applicable in J&K. The CrPC Section, referred to by Kumar, says: 'No court shall take cognizance of any offence alleged to have been committed by any member of the Armed Forces of the Union while acting or purporting to act in the discharge of his official duty, except with previous sanction of the central government'. As against the Section 4 and 7 of the AFSPA which give sweeping powers to Armed Forces in terms of search, seizure, detention and destruction (of militant hideouts) without warrants, the CrPC provision is only meant for search, seizure and detention. 'The CRPF personnel don't need such power which allows them to blow up buildings, purportedly used by militants as their hideouts, in some peaceful districts. There is no point terming those areas disturbed under the Disturbed Area Act,' said a senior home ministry official. Maintaining that counter-insurgency operations cannot be equated with normal law and order duties, both defence ministry as well as the Army are, however, sticking to their position that there should be 'no significant change' in Sections 4 and 7 of AFSPA, under which sweeping powers and legal safeguards are given to security forces for undertaking counter-terrorism operations.