Omar favours repeal of armed forces’ special powers


Jammu : Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Wednesday said he favoured the repeal of the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act — that gives legal immunity to security forces for causing collateral damage, including deaths, during operations — at a later stage.

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He said that “there was no question of its (act’s) revocation at this point in time.”

This is for the first time that Omar has made a categorical statement on the issue that has rankled many in the state.

“At the moment, we are examining the possibility of its removal from the least affected areas by militancy, where militancy-related violence has become a thing of the past,” he said.

“That’s being done for both the regions — the valley and Jammu region,” he said.

“We are discussing the matter with New Delhi,” he said.

People in the Kashmir Valley allege that the special powers of the security forces were the main factor behind human rights violations in the state.

Omar Abdullah’s statement comes in the backdrop of raging street protests and clashes in the valley, where 59 people have been killed since June 11.

The chief minister said the government was also seeking “amendment to the law so that the draconian components could be pulled out of it and make it more humane”.

The act was introduced in Jammu and Kashmir in 1990 and since 2007 its repeal has become a rallying point for all the separatist groups as also the mainstream parties, including the National Conference and the People’s Democratic Party.

However, the army is opposed to its dilution or withdrawal.

Indian Army Chief Gen. V.K. Singh has said on several occasions that the act was necessary for counter-insurgency operations in the state.

Chief of Indian Army’s Northern Command Lt. Gen. B.S. Jaswal told newsmen three months ago that there were 700 active militants in the state.

Regarding the proposal for the state’s autonomy, Omar said: “We are not taking an extreme position — this or nothing — we are willing to have a wider discussion on the subject. It’s not a single track thing.”

“At the same time, we are looking at the devolution of powers at the regional and sub-regional level (among Jammu, Kashmir and Ladhakh regions),” he said.

Omar said that he hoped that after the holy month of Ramadan — in which Muslims fast — holding panchayat elections in the state would be possible.

“Panchyati raj would be the best thing for the state,” he said.