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Points to ponder before snatching army's powers in Kashmir

Last updated on: November 3, 2011 12:11 IST

Points to ponder before snatching army's powers in Kashmir

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Jaibans Singh

Debates and discussions on the issue of revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in Jammu and Kashmir are welcome, but it has to be ensured that no such action is taken which sets back the clock on what has been achieved after making tremendous sacrifices, writes Jaibans Singh

The milieu of normalcy witnessed in Jammu and Kashmir during the preceding summer has given enough reason for cheer. The common man is happy because business has been brisk and uninterrupted; the students are happy because their studies were uninterrupted; the security personnel are happy because their relentless operations against terrorists and other forces advocating violence is, at last, bearing fruit; the political leadership is happy because it has, finally, been able to mobilise support for peace and development, by no means an easy task.

The unfolding scenario has also brought in its wake certain political compulsions to change the status quo with respect to application of such enabling laws like the Public Safety Act, the Disturbed Area Act and the Armed Forces Special Powers Act in the state, which facilitate the security forces in fighting terrorism and disruption.

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The views expressed by the author are his own


Image: A soldier check the credentials of a photographer in Srinagar

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These compulsions are a result of sustained propaganda by certain vested interests that have a stake in keeping turmoil alive in the state.

Such forces are well aware that these enabling laws have helped in facilitating the security forces in neutralising the foreign-sponsored mercenaries. They feel that terrorism and disruption can have a chance to resurface by doing away these enabling legislations.

To achieve this end result they constantly pressurise incumbent governments into revoking the same.

Even though the AFSPA comes third in the pecking order, it is normally the first to come in the eye of the storm. Its revocation should logically be preceded by revocation of the PSA and the DAA. Yet the entire debate centres on this law. The interested lobbies are aware that revocation of AFSPA will automatically mean revocation of PSA and DAA.

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Image: All Party Hurriyat Conference chief Syed Ali Shah Geelani

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Points to ponder before snatching army's powers in Kashmir

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One cannot find fault in the efforts being made towards bringing about a change in the status quo. The very normalcy that has come about with tremendous effort has now become a bane so far as the mainstream political posture is concerned.

Having committed to the revocation of AFSPA, it is becoming difficult to counter the propagandist onslaught of the vested interests and hence the search for a middle path.

It is also a reality that some mainstream political parties in Jammu and Kashmir, including the Congress, are against revocation of these legislations.

There is a strong reason behind this stringent opposition.

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Image: Paramilitary personnel frisking scooterists in Srinagar

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The presence of security forces, especially the army, is sought after by the common man in most parts of the state, including areas south of the Pir Panjal, Leh-Ladakh and even the higher reaches of the Kashmir Valley.

 

Even though terrorism is well within control in these areas, the locals get very apprehensive by the slightest attempt to move security forces from the vicinity of their villages and abodes.

The fear of a revisit of the terrible times gone by continues to haunt them.

The political parties that have a larger presence in regions of the state other than the Kashmir Valley are not ready to go against the wishes of their constituencies to placate a small minority.

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Image: A paramilitary trooper keeps vigil at a security check post

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The areas from where the demand for revocation of AFSPA is emerging are, in any case, not under the operational control of the army; they are being looked after by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and paramilitary forces. 


While considering changes in the status quo, it has to be kept in mind that partial revocation of these laws is not a very wise move.

The army feels that the areas that resultantly would not come under the purview of the legislations are likely to be used by terrorists to recoup and re-launch operations.

 

Even politically, an action of this nature is likely to trigger a chain reaction of demands for revocation in other areas and this will put the government on the backfoot.

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Image: A Kashmiri family smiles at an army trooper

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Another issue to be seen is the conditions prevailing in the neighbourhood. There is no denying that terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir is a product of Pakistan's intransigence. A weak but fundamentalist Pakistan is a constant threat to India, especially Jammu and Kashmir.

 

The first attempt of recouped fundamentalist forces in Pakistan, post the withdrawal of the US from Afghanistan, is likely to be re-engineering of terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. This being an internal problem cannot be countered by applying rules of conventional conflict. Hence the need for continuance of enabling laws for security forces.

 

The possibility of completely removing operational responsibility of the army in selected areas and vesting the same on the Jammu and Kashmir Police, while keeping the AFSPA in place, is also worth exploring. This will help build the confidence of the police, meet the demand of reducing the presence of the army in selected areas and yet keep open the option for immediate intervention in case of an emergency.

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Image: Schoolgirls walk past a paramilitary trooper in Jammu

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An action of this nature may, in the long term, open an avenue for complete revocation of security enabling laws in the state.

 

Undeniably, the intention of all mainstream nationalistic forces is to look for ways and means to usher complete normalcy in the state. However, there is no easy solution to this complicated issue.

It requires patience, foresight, a clear understanding of the current political-military environment and above all statesmanship to move towards a resolution, which is both circumspect and acceptable to all stakeholders.

 

Debates and discussions -- as stated by Union Home Minister P Chidambaram -- on the issue are welcome, but it has to be ensured that no such action is taken which sets back the clock on what has been achieved after making tremendous sacrifices.

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Source: ANI