J&K Separatists Denounce Army Chief’s Remarks On AFSPA Withdrawal

J&K Separatists Denounce Army Chief’s Remarks On AFSPA Withdrawal

14 January 2014
Times of India
M Saleem Pandit

Srinagar: Army chief General Bikram Singh's remarks on the revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and the presence of the army in Kashmir have evoked critical reactions from separatist groups. The army chief had said on Monday the time was not ripe for the withdrawal of AFSPA from Jammu and Kashmir in view of the presence of militants in the state and the rise in infiltration attempts from across the Line of Control. Separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani said India's 'arrogance of power' had made its army chief to issue such a 'bizarre' statement that depicted the Indian establishment's rigid policy on Kashmir. 'We want a complete withdrawal of forces from Kashmir,' he said, adding the revocation of AFSPA was a non-issue for his separatist group. 'There's a positive side of the picture as well: that despite a huge presence of the army and the suppressive measures inflicted upon our people, India couldn't break our will and resolve for freedom,' he said. Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Mohammad Yasin Malik said: 'We fail to understand: is India a democratic republic or a banana republic?' He said in the past the army had no say in the Indian political domain, but now army officers were always seen discussing political issues in television debates. The JKLF leader said the question of AFSPA's revocation was the domain of political parties and the army had no role in the issue. 'Kashmir is highest militarized zone where the army has been deployed to suppress the dissent of people,' he said. Also taking exception to General Singh's remarks, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, chairman of the moderate faction of the Hurriyat Conference, said it seemed vested interests had crept in and that was why the army chief had made such remarks. 'It's the considered opinion of the people here, including of the Hurriyat Conference, and for that matter almost all pro-India parties support the revocation of AFSPA,' he said. 'The army chief's remarks, having no respect for the public opinion, are unfortunate.' Farooq also questioned the authority of General Singh to speak on issues related to the political domain. 'It's ironic the army is now talking of the issues and virtually taking decisions on sensitive, political issues,' he said.