3 amendments proposed in AFSPA, report of Interlocutors will be made public

3 amendments proposed in AFSPA, report of Interlocutors will be made public

10 April 2012
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Union Home Minister P Chidambaram said today that his Ministry has proposed three amendments in Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which would be placed before Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) for implementation wherever AFSPA was applicable if they were cleared by the CCS. In a significant development, the Home Minister has sought a detailed report from police and Intelligence agencies on the activities of Kashmiri separatist Sayyid Ghulam Nabi alias Fai and his links in the State. The report was sought during security review meeting. Taking just two questions from few media persons on AFSPA and Interlocutors’ report at the end of his one day visit to Jammu, the winter capital of the State, Mr Chidambaram said the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) was in consideration of taking the proposed amendments before CCS. A detailed briefing would also be given to the CCS on recommendations made by the Interlocutors. Reliable sources said the CCS was meeting in New Delhi on Thursday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh to take up AFSPA amendments and Interlocutors’ report. Other members of the CCS included Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Defence Minister A K Antony, Home Minister P Chidambaram and External Affairs Minister SM Krishna. Mr Chidambaram would brief the CCS in detail on report of the Interlocutors and present three proposed amendments in AFSPA for consideration of the Prime Minister headed Committee, sources said. 'We will announce the decision (on proposed amendments) when it was taken’’, he said. During his hectic one day visit to the State, the Union Home Minister paid obeisance at holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi ji, reviewed security scenario of the State with Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Omar Abdullah besides top brass of civil administration, Central Police Forces, Intelligence agencies and police and met delegations of Congress and Sikhs before flying to Dehradun in Uttarakhand, where he would attend a function of Lal Bahadur National Academy of Administration at Mussorie tomorrow. The amendments proposed by the MHA in AFSPA included making it mandatory for armed forces to take arrest warrants in advance before conducting searches for arrests of any person, taking away the power of the armed forces to open firing causing deaths and setting up of a Grievance Redressal Cell. Defence Ministry and Army have strong objections to first two amendments. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has been demanding withdrawal of AFSPA from five peaceful districts of J&K including Jammu, Samba, Kathua, Srinagar and Badgam, a demand he reiterated in his meeting with the Home Minister. Mr Chidambaram said the Home Ministry was ready with three amendments and would be placing them before the CCS for consideration. 'If the amendments were approved by the CCS, they would be implemented wherever AFSPA was applicable’’, he said. At present, AFSPA was applicable in Jammu and Kashmir and most of the North Eastern States. Congress MP from Jammu-Poonch, Madan Lal Sharma, who was standing with Mr Chidambaram, said 'we have expressed our reservations over AFSPA. Time was not ripe for its revocation’’. Replying to another question on the fate of Interlocutors’ report, the Home Minister said it would also be taken up with the CCS first before being made public. 'The report would be taken up with the CCS and then made public for debate and discussion’’, the Home Minister said. The Home Minister appointed Interlocutors-Dileep Padgaonkar, a veteran journalist, Prof Radha Kumar, an academician and MM Ansari, a former Information Commissioner had submitted their report to Mr Chidambaram on October 12 last year, exactly after an year of their appointment. The report was lying with the MHA. The Home Minister said it would be discussed by the CCS and then circulated for eliciting public opinion. Sources said Omar Abdullah raked up the issue of Interlocutors report with the Home Minister and demanded that it should be made public and then implemented so that it didn’t meet the fate of other such reports. Earlier, Mr Chidambaram held a high level security review meeting with top brass of J&K’s civil administration and police, senior officers of all para-military forces and Intelligence agencies operating in the State at the banquet hall of Chief Minister’s official residence. The meeting lasted over one and a half hour. Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand and Minister of State for Home Nasir Aslam Wani were also present in the meeting. K Skandan, Joint Secretary (Kashmir) in Ministry of Home Affairs, Additional Director, Intelligence Bureau, Rajeev Kapoor and BN Ramesh, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to Union Home Minister, who accompanied Mr Chidambaram from New Delhi, also joined the meeting. Sources said the meeting discussed measures to ensure a peaceful summer in Kashmir in 2012 like 2011 when the Valley and other parts of the State were abuzz with tourists and pilgrim tourism. It discussed in detail the steps required to ensure that 2010 like situation didn’t erupt in Kashmir this summer when over 100 people were killed in incidents of firing etc. Sources said the Home Minister shared Intelligence and other inputs with top brass of police, para-military, Intelligence and other agencies on Jammu and Kashmir. He stressed for humane approach towards the people including the youth, engaging them in different programmes including recruitment drives and taking all possible measures to ensure that protests didn’t erupt in the Valley. The issue of AFSPA figured in the meeting Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had with Mr Chidambaram. Omar cited police, para-military and Intelligence reports that security situation has improved in many parts of the State and that there was no need of AFSPA in some districts. Omar said they were asking for AFSPA revocation from five peaceful districts only and not from the areas, where there was still presence of militants. Sources said Mr Chidambaram sought a detailed report from police and Intelligence on the activities and links of Fai in Jammu and Kashmir. A Virginia Court in the United States recently sentenced Fai to two month imprisonment. Excelsior had carried a series of stories on Fai’s links, who had benefited a lot with hawala transactions and enjoyed his hospitality in the United States. Sources said the Home Minister has asked police and Intelligence agencies to give a detailed report on links of Fai and his involvement in anti-national activities in the State before fleeing to the United States so that a strong case could be made for his extradition. The State Government has constituted a Special Investigating Team headed by SSP Badgam, Uttam Chand to investigate all links of Fai including those who had benefited of his hawala money and hospitality in the United States. Besides Fai, Mr Chidambaram directed police to vigorously pursue all terror funding cases to block hawala channels of militants and their upper ground network. The Home Minister discussed a mechanism with the State officials for return and rehabilitation of youth, who wanted to come back under Rehabilitation Policy of the Government and employment generation for local youth of the State. Police, civil administration and para-military officials told the Home Minister that situation all across the State including the Kashmir valley has undergone a sea change both on militancy front as well as law and order problem. He was given facts and figures on security scenario, which indicated that militancy graph has gone very low. All agencies expressed confidence about a peaceful summer in Kashmir this year like 2011. The Home Minister also reviewed situation on the International Border (IB) in Jammu sector. The Border Security Force (BSF) officer gave a detailed briefing to Mr Chidambaram on zero infiltration attempts on the IB despite all out efforts to push a number of terrorists camping on other side of the border. The Home Minister stressed that cross border terrorism remained an issue of concern as there was still presence of a number of militants across the border and infrastructure of terrorist outfits like Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen was also intact. However, he expressed satisfaction over zero infiltration on the IB and improved security scenario including graph of militancy, which had gone to an all time low in both Jammu and Kashmir regions during past couple of years. He stressed for keeping up the momentum against the militancy. Security arrangements for Baba Amarnath yatra from June 25 to August 2 also came in for a high level review in the meeting. The Home Minister assured the State Government that it would meet the demand for additional deployment of para-military forces for deployment all along the yatra route. Mr Chidambaram called for making elaborate security arrangements all along the yatra routes and cave shrine to ensure peaceful and smooth pilgrimage. The Home Minister was told that a large number of pilgrims were expected to visit the Amarnath cave shrine due to peaceful scenario in the Valley. Sources said the Home Minister also discussed with CRPF and police the removal of some bunkers from Srinagar city. The Chief Minister had said in the Assembly recently that some more bunkers from Srinagar city could be removed shortly. Sources added that the issue of rehabilitation of surrendered militants was also taken up by some agencies with the Home Minister on the ground that they could be re-cycled into the militancy. The Home Minister assured the Chief Minister that the Union Government was proposing more Jammu and Kashmir centric Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to help the people. Sources said the State Government assured the Home Minister that it was committed to holding elections to Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) and strengthening Panchayati Raj Institutions by giving them more powers. The meeting was among others attended by Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Home Secretary BR Sharma, Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister BB Vyas, Special Director General CRPF, J&K, Anirudh Uppal, Additional DGP Law and Order, K Rajendera, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal, IGP Kashmir SM Sahai, IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh, IG CRPF Kashmir, BN Ramesh, IGP CID Dr B Srinivas, IG CRPF (Administration), Kashmir, Ravi Prakash, Deputy Director IB Kashmir, Mahesh Dixit, Deputy Director (SIB), Jammu, Anuragh Kumar, IG BSF Kashmir DS Rathore, IG CRPF Jammu, AH Mohammad and DIG BSF, Jammu, NS Jamwal.