Srinagar, Dec 11: Cutting across the political divide, Jammu and Kashmir’s mainstream camp Tuesday expressed dismay over the Union Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s declaration that the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) can’t be revoked from the state.
Stating that the Home Minister “seems to be ignorant about the ground situation in Kashmir”, almost all the political parties in the state are of the view that bumper tourist season, peaceful Amarnath Yatra and record participation of people in Panchayat polls make ample ground for revocation of AFSPA.
The lone dissenting voice in the state on the issue is that of senior Congress leader and PHE Minister, Taj Mohi-ud-Din. “There are apprehensions that if AFSPA is revoked partially, such areas may become safe heaven for militants again,” Taj said. The development comes a day after Shinde said; “There can’t be partial withdrawal of AFSPA till complete peace returns to J&K.”
“We don’t know what parameters Union Home Minister is considering to judge peace in Kashmir,” said senior National Conference (NC) leader and the Law Minister, Ali Muhammad Sagar. He said Kashmir registered 15 lakh tourist arrivals in 2012. “We also witnessed record Amarnath Yatra and recently 93 percent voting in Panchayat elections. Doesn’t this all signify that peace has returned to Kashmir,” the Law Minister said.
He said NC working committee recently passed a resolution in favour of partial withdrawal of AFSPA. “We strongly believe that the Act has to go. If not in one go, but in a phased manner from the areas where militancy is over,” Sagar said.
The main opposition, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), believes AFSPA should be scrapped sooner the better.” “There cannot be a mathematical proof to show peace is prevailing in Kashmir. I think Kashmir is more peaceful than any other state of India even very much peaceful than some northeastern states,” said PDP chief spokesman, Naeem Akthar. “Onus also lies on the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah as he had one-and-a half year back stated that AFSPA will go. The Union Home Minister’s rebuff will create an impact on the NC-Congress bonhomie in J&K also as Chief Minister claims to be fighting for the restoration of Autonomy also.”
CPI (M) State secretary M Y Tarigami termed Shinde’s statement as a joke. “It seems that he is not aware of the ground situation in Kashmir. I want to ask Mr Shinde that isn’t roaming around in Lal Chowk and doing shopping with the Chief Minister without security enough proof to declare Kashmir as peaceful?,” he asked. Tarigami said 10 years down the line; Shinde would think hundred times whether to venture into Lal Chowk without security.
Peoples Democratic Front (PDF) chairman Hakeem Yasin expressed surprise over the Union Home Minister’s statement. “If present situation doesn’t mean peace, what should the J&K government do to ensure peace? We can’t wait till last gun falls silent in Kashmir,” he said.
Surprisingly, senior Congress leader and PHE Minister Taj Mohiuddin said he personally favours the AFSPA revocation but at the same time “there are apprehensions that if the Act is revoked partially, the areas may become safe heaven for militants again”. “These reservations have been expressed by various security agencies. For example, if we revoke AFSPA from Srinagar, militants may start camping in Srinagar,” he said. “Let all stakeholders sit before any final decision about withdrawal of AFSPA is taken.” Pertinently, the Union Home Minister during his recent visit to Kashmir went around the Polo View area here along with Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and later purchased some items for his children.