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Friday, August 21, 2009

'AFSPA to continue'

Srinagar, Aug 20: Taking a tough stand on the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, the Jammu and Kashmir government Thursday said the law would continue to be in force ‘as long as it was needed.”
“We don’t want that people should suffer (but) the act would remain as long as it is needed,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar, said in the Legislative Assembly responding to a cut motion by the Peoples Democratic Party’s Muzaffar Hussain Baig. Baig said the state government was violating the guidelines by the Apex Court that the Act should be reviewed after every six months.
However, the House witnessed a pandemonium when the minister said the Act was extended to the state in 1990 when Mufti Muhammad Sayeed was the Union Home Minister.
“The National Conference led by Dr. Farooq Abdullah left the Government when the Centre didn’t consider our plea not to extend the Act to the state. At that time there were only 72 militants in Kashmir. Dr. Sahab sought Mufti’s intervention but the Act was extended and one by one the districts were declared as disturbed areas,” Sagar said.
On this, the PDP members led by party president, Mehbooba Mufti, stood up saying that it was the National Conference which extended the Act to Jammu and brought the dreadful POTA into the state.
“Mehbboba Ji I appeal you to accept that it was Mufti Sahab who brought AFSPA to Jammu and Kashmir. You created the situation and we are facing the sufferings on its account. When PDP was in power you didn’t work for revoking the Act. I have checked all the official records there is not even a single mention of PDP pressing for revocation of the Act with the centre,” he said. “You brought the Act and now you are demanding its revocation.”
The statement by the state Government has come at a time when it is in constant touch with the Government of India for past several months seeking its revocation. The chief minister, Omar Abdullah, has said on numerous occasions that he has taken up the issue with the Home Minister P Chidambaram and the JK Government was hopeful of its revocation during its tenure. There were reports also that the Government of India might revoke the Act from the districts which have witnessed less militancy related activities in recent past.
Under the Act, the armed forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir enjoy immunity from any legal action for committing human rights violations unless the Centre sanctions prosecution of the accused.
“During the chief ministers’ conference in New Delhi Omar sahib urged the central authorities that keeping in view the improving situation in the state there was a good case for reviewing the continuation of Act,” Sagar said, adding the government would try to come to the expectations of the people but needed support from the House.
Earlier, the former Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister, Baig, said the armed forces could be used in the aid of the civil authorities in “grave situation” but government should look into whether the Disturbed Area act and AFSPA was presently applicable to Jammu and Kashmir as per the Constitution and the guidelines of the Supreme Court.
He said former chief minister of the state, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah, had not allowed extension of the 42nd amendment in the Indian Constitution to Jammu and Kashmir. “If the amendment along with the entry 2 was not applicable then we have to see whether the Act is applicable,” Baig said.
He said the Supreme Court guidelines say that any state could declare any area as disturbed and extend Disturbed Area Act and AFSPA when there would be grave law and order situation.
“But the guidelines make it clear that the Act should be reviewed. Jammu has been declared as disturbed area for past 15 years and Kashmir for past 20 years. The state Government has violated the guidelines by not reviewing the Act. Is there no need to review the Act? Are all districts of the state disturbed? I appeal to the Government to review the Disturbed Area Act,” Baig said.
“It is doubtful that the law is applicable to the state. Perhaps it is not applicable,” he opined.

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