Jammu, Nov 9: The top decision-making body on matters concerning security in Jammu and Kashmir – Unified Headquarters– Wednesday discussed possibilities of removing the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from some parts of the state, possibly from Srinagar, Budgam, Jammu and Samba districts.
The meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, was attended by the Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, heads of Army, CRPF, BSF, Police and intelligence agencies operating in the state. Well informed sources told Greater Kashmir that the marathon meeting, which started at around 4 pm and lasted for more than three hours at the Chief Minister's official residence, discussed in detail the security and law and order situation across the state.
Though various issues concerning the security of the state were disused at length, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act dominated most part of the meet, sources claimed adding that an attempt was made to evolve a consensus over the state government's move to revoke the controversial law from the peaceful parts of the state.
If sources are to be believed the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who heads the Command, opened the meeting clearing his government's stand over the move. He, sources said, was more particular about the involvement of army and BSF in the process.
They claimed that the government intends to revoke AFSPA from four districts of the state, Jammu, Srinagar (the twin capital cities), Budgam and Samba. "From the discussion in the meeting it is clear that the government intends to revoke the law from these four districts at the initial stage", sources privy to the proceedings of the meeting said adding, "It was observed in the meeting that these four districts do not have considerable militant presence and army has hardly carried any operation in last more than one year".
"In Srinagar and Budgam it is Special Operations Group of Police and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) on the forefront of anti-militancy operation, Jammu and Samba are considered to be peaceful zone", sources claimed.
"The Unified Command Headquarters meeting …reviewed the overall security scenario of the state and discussed measures to be taken in the next few months to maintain the ongoing normal situation in the state. The meeting… discussed in detail the partial removal of AFSPA from different parts of the state and the various constituents of the UHQ gave their view point on the issue," an official spokesman said.
However, it was reliably learnt that the senior army officers present in the meeting resisted the move on various grounds saying it will "severally affect its functioning".
If sources are to be believed the army has made it clear that Srinagar and Budgam in Kashmir are two most sensitive districts of the state even if there was admittedly negligible militant presence. "The two districts are the life-line even for the army supply and convoy movements and no AFSPA protection in these areas will have a large impact on our functioning", army reportedly explained in the meeting.
The army officers, sources said, explained in detail about the consequences of revocation of the law from any part of the state and categorically resisted the move.
The matter, sources said, would now come up for discussion before the state cabinet. The cabinet would be informed about the army's stand and further discussion over the issue would continue with the Union Home Ministry, sources claimed.
Earlier in the day, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah resisted the impression that the issue has put him at loggerheads with army. "By cleverly packaging the AFSPA debate as Omar v/s army a possible decision based on logic is being projected as some sort of ego clash", the chief minister wrote on micro blogging site Twitter.
Even immediately after the meeting, Omar responded to one of his followers, who wrote "give a written guarantee to the nation that AFSPA revocation will not unleash any more terror attacks????".
"Only if you give me an undertaking that the presence of AFSPA will ensure that there are NO more terror attacks :-)", Omar responded.
Among the officers who attended the meeting were General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C), Northern Command, Lt Gen K T Parnaik, GOC 16 Corps (Nagrota) Lt Gen A S Nandal, GOC 15 Corps (Srinagar) Lt Gen A S Hasnain, GOC 14 Corps (Leh) Lt Gen Ravi Dastane and GOC 9 Corps (Yol Cantonment) Lt Gen A K Chowdhary, Deputy Chief Minister Tara Chand, Chief Secretary Madhav Lal, Home Secretary B R Sharma, Director General of Police (DGP) Kuldeep Khoda, IG BSF A K Jain, IGP Kashmir SM Sahai, IGP Jammu Dilbagh Singh, Divisional Commissioner, Jammu, Pawan Kotwal, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Asgar Samoon and heads of CRPF, Intelligence Bureau (IB), CID and other agencies operating in the state.