Army Opposes AFSPA Withdrawal In J&K

7 July 2009
The Times of India

New Delhi: The Army is strongly opposed to any move to either 'withdraw' or 'dilute' the iron-fisted Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in Jammu & Kashmir 'in a hurry', contending it will fritter away hard-fought gains in the anti-militancy battle. This comes in the backdrop of the Union home ministry contemplating 'a phased withdrawal'of AFSPA from some relatively violence-free districts like Srinagar, Budgam, Jammu and Kathua, with state chief minister Omar Abdullah repeatedly raising the demand with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, home minister P Chidambaram and defence minister A K Antony. Civil rights groups, on their part, also want AFSPA to be scrapped on the ground that it gives ‘draconian powers’ to security forces, which are ‘often misused’ against ‘innocents’. Various committees like the ones led by Hamid Ansari and Justice Jeevan Reddy, incidentally, have also recommended AFSPA should be revoked from areas like J&K and Manipur. Army, however, feels if it’s to be used for counter-terrorism (CT) operations in J&K, which cannot be equated with normal law and order duties, then its soldiers need ‘adequate protection’ against being dragged to courts. ‘‘It (AFSPA’s withdrawal) is a political decision. We will, of course, follow orders. But we feel the situation has now been brought somewhat under control in J&K after battling two decades of proxy war fuelled by Pakistan. There should not be a rush to assume normalcy has returned,’’ said a senior officer. For one, there are over 600 terrorists ‘still active’ in J&K, with over 40% of them being of ‘‘foreign origin’’. For another, 42 terror-training camps are still operational in Pakistan and PoK. ‘‘Terror outfits will regroup and re-arm if pressure is slackened at this stage,’’ he added.