PM Working Group Calls For Revocation Of AFSPA
1 May 2007
The Hindustan Times
Jammu: What has been kept under wraps after the third Round Table Conference on Kashmir is that a key working group has recommended scrapping of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act and also underlined the urgency for an 'unconditional dialogue' with terrorist outfits. The working groups dealing with the confidence building measures within the state, headed by MA Ansari, a former diplomat, in its recommendations has said that these laws 'impinge on fundamental rights of citizens'. 'Certain laws made operational during the period of militancy (eg Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Area Act) impinge on fundamental rights of citizens and adversely affect the public. They should be reviewed and revoked.' 'Law and order matters should be dealt with, to the maximum extent possible, through normal laws.' This group has also called for an 'unconditional dialogue with militant outfits. It said that 'An unconditional dialogue process is started with militant groups for finding a sustainable solution to the problem of militancy in the state.' Minister for Consumer Affairs Taj-Mohi-Ud-Din, one of the members of the group said: 'It is a fact that we had agreed to review the AFSPA and DDA and if it was possible in the light of the improved situation, these laws may be revoked.' PDP patron and former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, who was one of the high- profile participants at all the three RTCs, however, said: 'This recommendation has been accepted. There was no dissenting note, and it goes with what we have been saying all along that these laws should be reviewed and revoked.' The group headed by MA Ansari, was one of the five groups constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the conclusion of Second Round Table Conference in Srinagar (May 24-25) last year, and it had among its members, the leaders of BJP - former minister of state for defence Chaman Lal Gupta - Education Minister and PCC president Peerzada Mohammad Sayeed, and Kashmiri Pandit leaders, all of whom are public faces of opposition to demilitarisation and doing away with the special powers of the security forces and unconditional dialogue with militants. Panun Kashmir leader Agnishekhar, who was one of the members of the group, said that he had vehemently opposed 'dilution of anti-terror measures for there were 1500-1600 active militants in the state and other 4,000 waiting across the Line of Control. And, as such, the situation was far from being conducive for any such anti-security forces measures.' 'But our pleas were ignored,' Agnishekhar regretted. He said: 'What has come as recommendations of this group, particularly doing away with the special powers, is a result of some behind the scene machinations.' 'That's why we have disassociated ourselves from the recommendations, both at the Round table Conference and outside of it,' he said. This report was lying with Prime Minister and Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad since January, when the group finalized its report. Azad has been the loudest voice against troops reduction and quashing of AFSPA. The seven-point statement adopted at the third RTC in New Delhi on April 24 gave its 'in principle endorsement to the approach suggested by the Working Group on Confidence Building Measures across Segments of Society in the State viz strengthening human rights protection; improving relief and rehabilitation of widows, orphans and other victims of militancy and violence; and preserving the rich and diverse cultural landscape of the State.'