Cabinet to consider AFSPA withdrawal after consensus28 October 2011
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah today assured the Council of Ministers that he will work for consensus between various agencies connected with the law and order in the State before arriving at a decision for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some areas of the State to begin with. Sources told EXCELSIOR that in a detailed reply to the discussion on the issue in the Cabinet meeting held at summer capital of the State this morning, Mr Omar said that a debate may be raging now on withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Powers Act but the Centre has been working with the State Government to review the notification of the Disturbed Areas Act in some areas to enable the revocation of law that gives special powers to the armed forces. The announcement regarding revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act and Disturbed Areas Act was in accordance with the September 25, 2010 decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the Chief Minister informed the Cabinet colleagues, adding the CCS headed by Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh had last year taken eight decisions including appointment of a group of interlocutors to begin the process of sustained dialogue with all the sections of people in Jammu and Kashmir. It was also decided to request the State Government to immediately convene a meeting of the Unified Headquarters and to review the deployment of security forces in the Kashmir valley, especially Srinagar with particular reference to de-scaling the number of bunkers and check-points etc in Srinagar and other towns, and to review the notification of disturbed areas, sources said quoting Chief Ministerís reply in the Cabinet meeting. He informed the Cabinet that on the request of Union Government, Core Group comprising Principal Secretary (Home), B R Sharma, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda, 16 Corps General Officer Commanding (GOC), Lt Gen J P Nehra, 15 Corps GOC Lt Gen S A Hasnain, Additional Director Intelligence Bureau (IB) and Special Director General CRPF, was constituted to discuss and recommend the areas from where the Disturbed Areas Act could be removed. The Core Group accordingly held several meetings. Stating that his announcement was part of that decision of the CCS, the Chief Minister said that he never by-passed the Cabinet on any issue in the past and will continue with his that approach in future also. He assured the Council of Ministers that he will work for consensus between various agencies connected with the law and order in the State before arriving at a decision for revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some areas of the State to begin with. It is pertinent to mention here that there are differences between Union Defence and Home Ministries over the revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and in view of the statement made by the Chief Minister in the Cabinet, the State Government will have to thoroughly deliberate upon the issue in the Unified Headquarters meeting as the outcome of the same would depend upon the consensus with Union Defence Ministry. Sources said that Chief Minister explicitly told the Council of Ministers that after consensus on the issue, a proposal will be moved in the State Cabinet for decision following which the notification regarding withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act and AFSPA from some areas of the State would be issued. 'If the consensus is emerged shortly then the proposal would be moved in the next Cabinet meeting', sources said. Earlier, Minister for Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, Raman Bhalla initiated discussion on the issue soon after the Cabinet cleared the routine agenda. 'We have been hearing statements from different quarters about the withdrawal of AFSPA after the Chief Ministerís announcement but the issue was never discussed in the Cabinet, which is the only appropriate forum before the State Government to take decisions', sources said quoting Bhalla as having told the Cabinet. He said that without taking Army into confidence no such decision should be taken as it was due to Army that marked improvement is being witnessed in the security scenario in the State. Taking decision without evolving consensus would amount to demoralizing the armed forces, he asserted. Mr Bhalla was supported by another Congress Minister, Taj Mohi-ud-Din, who too stressed for evolving consensus before taking decision on withdrawal of AFSPA. Sources said that discussion was held in most harmonious manner and everyone was satisfied with the detailed reply of the Chief Minister, which lasted in more than half an hour. 'As the reply of Mr Omar was so elaborate and clear there was no need for any reaction from other three Congress Ministers as well as those of National Conference', they added.