Omar Seeks Partial Withdrawal Of AFSPA From J-K

17 August 2009
The Indian Express


New Delhi: Pressing for partial withdrawal of special anti-terror laws from Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah on Monday appealed to the Centre and political parties to take a 'pragmatic view' on lifting AFSPA from the districts where terrorist activities are 'minimal'. The Armed Forces Special Powers Act played an important role in providing legal protection to army and paramilitary forces during the years when insurgency was at its peak in the state, but now it is time for shunning the 'extreme positions' on the issue keeping the changed situation in view, he said at the chief ministers' conference on internal security. 'Now that there is a distinct change in the security environment in the state, there is a good case for reviewing the continuation of the AFSPA, particularly in those areas of the state which are at the moment not unduly affected by insurgent or terrorist activities,' he said at the meeting, which was earlier addressed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. In a veiled hint at BJP and other political parties and the Defence Ministry, which were opposing withdrawal of AFSPA, he said 'even though this is a highly emotive issue which has provoked extreme positions, I would like to request that a pragmatic view about the continuation of the AFSPA be taken with a view to removing its applicability from those districts in the state where terrorist or insurgent activities are minimal or insignificant.' Omar also advocated that while dealing with internal security, adequate precautions should be taken so that no society feels alienated. 'Due care must be taken while handling internal security situations to ensure that the human rights of the citizens are not violated. The necessity to maintain internal security must be balanced with the need to protect and respect human rights. 'It must also be ensured that the response to internal security threats should not have the effect of creating paranoia among the public about particular sections of society,' the Chief Minister said. It is essential that the measures taken by the government should not have the effect of 'alienating these sections of society,' Omar added. The statement from the Chief Minister comes in the wake of reports that Kashmiri youths, settled or studying in various parts of the country, were allegedly subjected to harassment at the hands of police forces. Omar also asked the Centre to look beyond its role of providing para-military forces to any state as a response to internal security. '...it must be emphasised that most internal security problems have a political origin and, therefore, it is essential that a political strategy be worked out to deal with the root causes of the problem,' he said. 'This admittedly may be difficult when political parties believing in different philosophies are ruling in the Centre and in the states, but nonetheless without a clear and coherent political strategy it will not be possible to counter or defeat the problem,' Omar said.