Remove AFSPA demand triggered by Interlocutors report
by Sandhya Jain on 19 Nov 2011 10 Comments

Even as chief minister Omar Abdullah accepts the failure of his mission to persuade Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to support his quest for the withdrawal, albeit partial, of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from Jammu and Kashmir, questions are being raised about the timing of selective leaks of the interlocutors report to the Union Home Ministry.


Who is trying to up the ante?


When the report was submitted to Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram last month, government sources stated that copies would soon be made available to all political parties in the State. The brief summary to the media suggested that the interlocutors had steered clear of all controversies by maintaining silence on the removal of AFSPA, or return to pre-1953 status.


It now transpires that this is far from the truth.


On perusing the report, the Centre quietly dropped plans to make copies officially available to political parties in the State; informed sources said the report had many ‘dangerous’ and ‘divisive’ recommendations. Political leaders said the report was a non-starter as copies were not being made available to them; they felt it would meet the fate of the Justice (retd) Saghir Ahmed Report (2009).


Obviously some powerful vested interests were determined to press the ‘divisive’ line, and began propagating the report via selective leaks, most notably in Tehelka. It is not known who or what prompted Mr. Omar Abdullah to suddenly invest so much political capital in getting AFSPA withdrawn from the State, and who selected the so-called four ‘trouble-free’ districts, including the strategically important Budgam where the Indian Air Force has a base which cannot be rendered vulnerable to attacks of the kind that took place at the Mehran naval air base in Karachi, Pakistan, earlier in May this year. What is undeniable is the synchronicity between Abdullah’s sudden demand for removal of AFSPA late last month and the Tehelka leaks.


Interlocutors stir a witches’ brew


At the height of the controversy, on Nov. 12, chief interlocutor Dileep Padgaonkar (whose job ended when he and his colleagues submitted their report to the Union Home Minister) gave a statement to The Times of India that the report favoured de-notification of the Disturbed Areas Act from some peaceful districts and the ultimate withdrawal of AFPSA.


The sum and substance of the recommendations leaked to the media are wholly consistent with the wish-list of Gen. Parvez Musharraf and others like Ghulam Nabi Fai and Farooq Kathwari who have wined and dined a huge slice of India’s so-called elite over the years. Some highlights include:


-        Recognise the “dual” and “special” status of Jammu and Kashmir. The report favours making Article 370 a permanent feature of the constitution by replacing the word “temporary” in title with “Special” [This is tantamount to interfering with a basic feature of the Constitution, as Art. 370 was intended by the framers of the constitution to be a temporary feature; its removal should now be expedited to curb fissiparous and separatist tendencies].


-        Make the Line of Control porous by opening all routes and allowing Kashmiris free movement on either side of the border [from the PDP’s self-rule document]


-        Create a consultative mechanism whereby elected representatives on both sides could deliberate on issues of common interest and concern, such as water, economy, trade, tourism and cultural exchange. [This is a road map for an Independent Kashmir as a half-way house to its merger with Pakistan. The interlocutors have attached a half-clever rider that “democratic institutions of self-governance should be established in areas of erstwhile princely state under the de facto control of Pakistan”, i.e., PoK. They have not dared to identify WHICH NATION should enforce this sage advice]


-        Review all Central laws and articles of the Indian Constitution made applicable to J&K after 1952 [It is obvious this recommendation has been made with a view to pave the way for Autonomy for the State, a core National Conference agenda, even though Sheikh Abdullah himself closed this chapter firmly. It is just another way of saying that the Centre must confine its authority to three subjects - defence, communications, currency]


-        Work on a new “compact” with the people of the State [whatever that means]


-        The Governor should be appointed by the President, but only from a panel of three names sent by the State Assembly [a key demand in the PDP self-rule document]


-        The nomenclatures of Governor and Chief Minister should remain the same in English but equivalent nomenclatures to be used solely in Urdu may be considered [i.e., prime minister and Sadr-e-Riyasat – a move that will fuel separatism]


-        No changes in Article 356, but if the government is dismissed, elections should be held within three months. For cases involving imposing of internal emergency, the State Government must be consulted beforehand


-        Promotion of officers from all-India services may be gradually reduced in favour of officers from the State civil service without compromising efficiency [a recipe for phasing out all-India services from the state altogether]


-        No further Central laws should be extended to the State by Presidential order.


-        Separation of Ladakh from Kashmir province and constitution of separate councils for Kashmir, Ladakh and Jammu to remove the sense of discrimination [clearly an instance of surpassing jurisdiction]


As though all this were not enough, the report suggests a high degree of internal devolution of powers, with each region having councils of equal constitutional status. It talks of steps to end the alienation of people from the Centre and the issue of human rights violations.


Interestingly, fearing that the Centre may disregard these sweeping recommendations, at least one or more interlocutors [identities suppressed] told Tehelka correspondent Iftikar Gilani that they feared their labour could meet the same fate as the ten reports submitted in the past five years (three by former RBI Governor C Rangarajan, three by working groups set up by the Prime Minister, and one each by the Finance Commission for the state, by NC Saxena, by Abhijit Sen on Ladakh, and another on Jammu).


Centre backs Army refusal to budge


Omar Abdullah was thoroughly briefed when he decided to take up the withdrawal of AFSPA to retrieve political ground in the State. He argued that the summer had passed without undue difficulty and so AFSPA should be removed from at least four peaceful districts, namely, Srinagar and Budgam in the Valley, and Jammu and Samba in Jammu province. He reasoned that if all went well, AFSPA could be phased out entirely, and if otherwise, it could well be re-introduced.


But on Nov. 14, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Anthony, and Army Chief V.K. Singh all refused to countenance any such move.


The Army view is simply that partial removal of AFSPA would adversely affect its mobility and capacity for action across districts. In any case, the situation in Kashmir cannot be disconnected from the instability in neighbouring Afghanistan and Pakistan, and Pakistan’s continuing proxy war with India. Interestingly, Pakistani Major (retd.) Agha H. Amin shares the view that Pakistan cannot make peace with India. The recent peace moves, he says, are merely a tactical response to the current impasse with Washington, over Afghanistan. 


Certainly Pakistan has failed to act against those responsible for the carnage at Mumbai in November 2008, or to shut down its terrorist camps or jihadi cells. In fact, just before the Indian and Pakistan Prime Ministers met at Maldives recently, Islamabad removed the infamous Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) from its terror list and mocked at Indian evidence linking Hafiz Saeed to the Mumbai commando attack. Nor has any action been taken to curb the menace of fake Indian currency.


Security agencies now warn that nearly 2500 ‘volunteers’ are trained and ready in terrorist camps, and up to a thousand are primed to infiltrate Jammu and Kashmir from PoK. The terrorist infrastructure across the LoC is formidable, with 35 out of 42 training camps active. The camps are being reorganized to give Islamabad a deniability factor in the proxy war.


As he replenishes his energies for the real challenges facing his office, a chastened Omar Abdullah would do well to shun those who instigated him to stake his political capital on revocation or partial revocation of AFSPA. The peace in Kashmir is a dividend of the blood and sweat of real men; he should do nothing to diminish their honour or their sacrifices.



The author is Editor,

User Comments Post a Comment

Back to Top