Home Indian Muslim Chidambaram, Antony should concur on AFSPA: Khurshid

Chidambaram, Antony should concur on AFSPA: Khurshid


New Delhi : Differences in the central government over withdrawing the special powers for the armed forces in Jammu and Kashmir came out in the open Tuesday, with Law Minister Salman Khurshid saying Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Defence Minister A.K. Antony needed to concur on the issue.

He also said the Indian Army has to be taken on board before any decision can be taken on the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), which gives the defence forces unfettered powers to deal with terrorism and which critics say results in rights violations.

“The home minister and the defence minister should first concur on the issue and the army should be taken on board before a final decision can be taken (on AFSPA withdrawal),” Khurshid told reporters here.

His comments come in the wake of Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s comments last week that “with gradual improvement in the security situation and return of peace, some laws like AFSPA are being removed from some areas within the next few days”.

Khurshid said the chief minister may have “compelling reasons” to address the aspirations of the people of the state for pushing for the withdrawal of the special law, which has been in force in the state for more than 21 years.

Abdullah’s remarks, some quarters feel, came after his discussions with Chidambaram last week.

Meanwhile, Minister of State for Defence M.M. Pallam Raju said the government was examining the demand for withdrawal of AFSPA at the highest level.

However, Raju said he thought the special law was “needed for the forces to function in some very, very difficult times.”

“What the chief minister is asking for is lifting AFSPA from some areas, where there are more peaceful conditions. But I am sure the government and the (defence) ministry will take a balanced view on that,” he added.

Highly placed official sources have said that Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra will have a final say in deciding whether special powers to the armed forces in Kashmir are to be revoked from some areas and when.