AFSPA Dilution In Jammu & Kashmir Postponed13 September 2010
The Economic Times
New Delhi: The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) put off plans to partially revoke the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), following fresh violence in the Kashmir Valley over alleged desecration of Koran in the US. The CCS, which met on Monday evening for three hours, took stock of the worsening situation in the Valley , which recorded the biggest single death toll from protests on Monday. It was of the view that larger consensus was required on the ‘way forward’ and the government announced convening of an all-party meeting in the Capital on Wednesday. The proposal for a makeover for AFSPA still looks a tough task as the Army continues to maintain that “special laws are needed to tackle a special situation .” With paramilitary forces and the police failing to contain the situation that seems to be going worse, a section of the CCS was of the view that the government should not do anything that would sap the morale of the Army. “The Army is needed to maintain some semblance of order in the chaos-ridden Valley,” said a leader during the meeting. Politically, too, the Centre does not have much elbow room to work around AFSPA, as the main Opposition, BJP, has warned against looking at it as a solution. In the event of the situation spinning out of control, it is certain to pin the blame for any possible setback on the government . The recent back-and-forth between Congress and BJP on the issue clearly points to this possibility. Clearly aimed at sending out the signal that the Centre does not subscribe to J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah’s “no outreach, no back channel approach” , CCS said the government is keen to restart the process of dialogue. “The dialogue can embrace all the issues that agitate the minds of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the youth. The dialogue can address issues such as trust deficit and the governance deficit,” a statement issued after the CCS meeting said. With minority institutions bearing the brunt of the rumours of desecration of Koran - a mob in Baramullah set ablaze a private school run by missionaries - the US administration stepped in to share the hurt of the community . “News reports have stated that on Saturday, September 11, one misguided individual in the US desecrated the Holy Koran by tearing pages from it. On behalf of everyone at the US embassy in India, I condemn such acts as disrespectful, intolerant, divisive, and unrepresentative of American values. The deliberate destruction of any holy book is an abhorrent act. The acts of this one individual are not representative of America and American values,” US ambassador Timothy Roemer said. He also said that the US was dismayed to see reports that a school and a church in Kashmir and Punjab have been attacked and destroyed by rioters. “We strongly support local authorities’ appeal for calm and an end to the violence,” the US ambassador said. Hours before the crucial CCS meeting, Mr Abdullah held separate meetings with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and home minister P Chidambaram. Mr Abdullah, who left for the Valley, held an emergency meeting of the Cabinet and called upon people to maintain peace. In Srinagar, DGP Kuldeep Khuda played out a tape before the media which allegedly showed an aide of hard-liner Hurriyat leader Geelani instigating the mobs to attack security personnel.