Jammu, Mar 29: The State Government has said it has been repeatedly advocating repeal of the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from militancy-free areas in Jammu and Kashmir.
"Ever since the assumption of office in 2009, the Government has initiated several Confidence Building Measures. It has been repeatedly advocating for withdrawal of AFSPA from the areas which are free of militancy," the Home Department has revealed in response to a question whether any request has been made to the Government of India for withdrawing the law. The response was shared by the Government in the Legislative Assembly during discussion on grants for the Home Department earlier this week.
On March 6, Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde had told the Rajya Sabha that there was no formal request from J&K Government for scrapping of the Act.
The State Government said it has constituted two committees, one each in Kashmir and Jammu, to recommend the areas from where the law could be revoked.
"The committees held several meetings," said the reply by the Home Department headed by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. "Their recommendations would be acted upon once they submit their report to the government."
Debate over AFSPA revocation was intensified in 2011 when, at a police function on Srinagar outskirts, Omar Abdullah said the controversial law would be removed from parts of the state "within days." Later Omar told media persons the law would go during his tenure in the office. The Omar-led government would complete its 6-year term in 2014.
However, the Army and Defense Ministry has repeatedly opposed any such move to "dilute" powers of the armed forces in J&K, saying it could prove counter-productive.
"The state government is committed to the withdrawal of the law in a phased manner," the Government reply said. "There have been repeated demands from political parties and separatists for withdrawal of the Act," the Home Department's reply said.
The AFSPA gives immunity to the forces against legal action for their involvement in human rights violations unless the Government of India sanctions the prosecution of the accused, which has been very rare.
Meanwhile, the State Government has also underlined the need for continuing with the Unified Headquarters in J&K. "The UHQ coordinates activities of all security agencies on a single platform under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister," the Government reply said. "The purpose of the UHQ is to ensure that adequate attention is placed on the functioning of security grid and also ensure that the developments vis-à-vis security concerns are reconciled in such a way that security grid enables the development activities to flourish."