Ahead of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Kashmir, state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has raised a question mark over the recent 'encounter killings' by security forces and made a strong pitch for changes in the Armed Forces Special Powers Act to make it more transparent.
"Obviously there would be doubts. This is the problem when a handful of people for their short-term gains are willing to sacrifice the long-term interests of not only forces they represent but that of everybody else," he said.
On April 30, the army had said that three unidentified infiltrators in Machhil sector had been killed. It was soon revealed that the three were local youths who were missing since April 27, following which a territorial army jawan and two others were arrested.
"Obviously, there will be serious repercussions and doubts will emerge. The state police, which is flooded with such complaints and enquiries about encounters, are now going back more than five-six years and in some case even eight years," Abdullah said.
"We have dug up bodies and verified whether these encounters were genuine or not. This has really put a lot of additional work on the already burdened police force because a whole host of questions are being asked about these encounters," he said.
Omar said the police has looked into every complaint that has been made to the police after the Machhil encounter. The police "have satisfied the complainants that whatever deaths have so far taken place other than the Machhil one have been the result of genuine encounters," Omar said.
The prime minister is scheduled to undertake a two-day visit to Kashmir from June 7 during which he is expected to renew the offer for talks with separatists and review the progress on the round table peace initiative.
This will be Dr Singh's second visit to the Kashmir valley in the first year of his second term in office. Abdullah said that Dr Singh will have a comprehensive agenda of development and progress.
"I am sure there will be a political element built into his agenda as well," he said.
On people's expectations from the visit, the chief minister said they will seek some sort of indication on the Centre's intention to kick-start the stalled dialogue between Delhi and mainstream political voices in the state. When asked about Army personnel being indicted for their involvement in alleged fake encounters, Abdullah said the biggest problem in these cases was the absence of transparency.
"Unfortunately, because of the AFSPA, because it is built for the armed forces, the Army is the judge, the jury and the hangman. Therefore, there is absence of transparency, as a result of which people have lost faith in the system," he said.
The chief minister said the locals didn't believe that justice would be done and that is why they reacted so strongly to AFSPA and the armed forces.
Abdullah said while the AFSPA was necessary, "it needs to be amended so that it is more transparent, more accountable and people have more faith in the system."
Asked whether the "quiet dialogue" initiated by Home Minister P Chidamabaram with a section of separatists had not been handled well, he said, "I don't think that it was Delhi's fault that the quiet dialogue didn't remain quiet."
"I think concerted efforts were made in certain quarters throughout the dialogue process and that is what it fell victim to," Abdullah said.
He said attempts at reaching out to certain sections of the Hurriyat Conference using back channels were going on and hoped these efforts would realise "the results we all hope for."