PDP Celebrates, Gets Centre To Name Panel For Troop Review InJ&K
30 March 2007
The Indian Express
Srinagar: The Centre today announced that an expert panel, headed by Defence Secretary Shekhar Dutt, would look at troop deployment in Jammu and Kashmir and determine if there was need to 'relocate and reconfigure' them. It also formed a committee to 'review the application' of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act in different parts of the state. A high-powered committee, headed by Defence Minister A K Antony and comprising representatives from the Central and state governments, will finally decide on the recommendations of both these committees. Hours before the Central announcement, militants carried out a pre-dawn attack in Rajouri district of J&K, shooting dead five Hindus and leaving four others injured. Officials said four militants barged into Hindu homes in Panglar village of Rajouri around 2 am, forced people out and opened fire. Two persons managed to escape and informed the Army. The militants fled before security forces could reach the area. The Central move to appoint an expert panel on troops in J&K came after the PDP, part of the ruling alliance in the state, threatened to withdraw from the coalition if its demands for troop withdrawal and repeal of special laws were not met. In Srinagar, PDP cadres set off fireworks as soon as word reached that the Centre had announced review panels. PDP leader Mufti Mohammed Sayeed, who had met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week over the party's demands, told The Indian Express: 'It is the victory of the people of Jammu and Kashmir.' 'Today's decision shows that the leadership at the Centre has realised that there is a problem and they are sincere in providing relief to the people... The Prime Minister did it in a dignified manner and consulted everybody. This decision was taken after a consensus,' Sayeed said. Another PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beig said the Centre's decision to set up review panels was a 'validation of our point of view and proof that the Centre is sincere'. 'It is a great challenge to repair relations between the two coalition partners. It will need a lot of hard work, communication, sincerity on either side to make this coalition work,' Beig said. Sayeed said it was 'unfortunate' that Chief MInister Ghulam Nabi Azad had opposed the PDP demand and hoped there would be no problems in the coalition. 'The national leadership will attend to coalition problems as well,' he said. The decision to set up a mechanism to examine some of the 'problematic aspects of the current situation' was taken after a review of the situation in the state and consultations with Azad. The Army's assessment of the ground situation was also considered. Formation of the panel was discussed during an informal meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) yesterday. The expert panel on troops in J&K will include representatives from the Defence and Home ministries, armed forces and state government, Prime Minister's Media Advisor Sanjaya Baru said. The panel would carry out an 'in- depth assessment of the situation' and decide if there is need to 'relocate and reconfigure' security forces deployed in the state. While making its determination on troops, the expert panel will ensure that 'cardinal aspects of security are not compromised in any manner', Baru said. The review committee would conform to legal requirements for a 'periodic review' of the application of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act. The Prime Minister's Office maintained that the state government had already initiated steps to return several properties, buildings and orchards occupied by the security forces over the years. A nodal officer will, however, be appointed to survey properties which were still occupied and decide if more could be restored to the owners. The state government would be consulted on the compensation that needs to be paid in cases of properties that cannot be vacated by security forces.