By Mudassir Kuloo
Srinagar, Mar 18: The demand for revoking the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from north eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir has grower louder, with politicians and political experts calling several provisions in the Act “offensive”.
Over 25 years have passed to the introduction of AFSPA in J&K.
The law remains a bone of contention in J&K and in several north eastern states.
Congress M P, Shashi Tharoor on Saturday voiced support for amending the AFSPA, which according to him was causing “more harm than good”.
Describing the language of the provisions in AFSPA as “offensive” to the sensibilities of any democrat, he said, “I think a significant section of the political establishment, certainly speaking for my party, would be in favour of amending (the) AFSPA.”
“The provision for arrest without warrant is far too blanket. But, the revocation of the Act may be a step that would be politically difficult,” he said.
Senior Hurriyat leader, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq has sought the United Nations’ (UN) intervention on the AFSPA, urging the world body to influence New Delhi to abolish it.
“It is long overdue that the UN takes cognisance of the grave situation prevailing in the Valley, especially the daily killings,” he said recently.
AFSPA grants government forces executive powers to search and arrest without a warrant, to open fire on a mere suspect Action cannot be prosecuted in civilian courts unless the Centre allows it.
Opposition National Conference General Secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar said that his party has always demanded revocation of the AFSPA.
“It shall be revoked as soon as possible as it is being misused,” he said.
Ruling party PDP’s Chief Spokesperson, Rafi Ahmad Mir, said his party wanted removal of the AFSPA.
“Earlier, we thought it could be withdrawn partially. We stand with the recent statement of CM that it should be removed from the state once the situation becomes conducive,” Mir said.
Political expert, Prof Gul Mohammad Wani said that people of JK were united in seeking revocation of the AFSPA.
“This draconian and harsh law has to go where army man can kill anyone on mere suspicion and search any one. There are provisions in it, which are harsh and need to be diluted,” Wani said.
He said there were several provisions in the AFSPA, which, as per international human rights standards, were “offence”.
“The interlocutor reports also recommended it removal or be diluted,” he said.
Indian defence experts have mixed opinion about its removal.
Editor of the Force Newsmagazine, Pravin Sawhney said the UPA government announced its removal in a few areas.
“But the question is whether the army will accept it or not. Army will not accept any government’s decisions that go against the wishes of the army,” Sawhney told The Kashmir Monitor over phone.
Asked whether there are several provisions in it “offensive”, he replied, “Any provision is a tooled weapon. Security forces see it in one perspective and call it their protection while the affected people think it other way and believe it is offensive. I believe that army should be withdrawn from civilian areas and posted along the LoC.”
Defence expert Ajai Sahni said that that Congress led government while being in power for 50-years never called AFSPA as offensive.
“Today its leaders believe its provisions are offensive when they are out of power,” Sahni said, who is the Executive Director of the Institute for Conflict Management.
He said, “Supreme Court reviewed the AFSPA and did not found provisions in AFSPA offensive. This law does not give any protection to army if they indulge in human rights violations.”
He said there was disagreement only on the clause 6 of the act, which says that states where the AFSPA is in place have to get approval from the centre to prosecute army man if found involved in any offence.
“This is applicable for all centre government employees. The states have to get approval from their parent department to prosecute for any offence. This law is not being used. Army can’t operate in any disturbed area with the protection,” he added.
FB’s #10 yr challenge: Netizens mock languishing govt projects in Kashmir
Srinagar, Jan 20: The #10year challenge–the latest rage on Facebook is triggering an unintended consequence in Kashmir.
It has thrown light on the abysmal pace of execution of key developmental projects.
In Kashmir, the government works are conceived and launched with much fanfare, but years, and in some cases decades, pass before they see the light of day.
The #10year challenge, new fad that has taken Facebook by storm and involves a person juxtaposing his or her decade-old photo with the current one, has seen Kashmiri people sharing photos of the incomplete government works here.
Netizens mostly share two similar photos of an incomplete pillar of the Jehangir Chowk-Ram Bagh (JCRB) flyover project, which was announced in 2009 and is still incomplete.
The project has missed multiple deadlines. To shut up the criticism they were receiving for the delay, the authorities opened up one way traffic on the first phase of the project, the overall completion of which is still a distant dream.
Announced in 2009, the construction on the flyover, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) at an estimated cost of Rs 359 crore, began in 2013, with September 2016 set as its first deadline. The then chief minister Omar Abdullah had laid the foundation of the flyover.
Apart from JCRB, the other major projects which were started years ago but are yet to be completed include: Boulevard widening project, construction of tunnel on the Mughal Road, and widening of an arterial passage in the capital city, Syed Meerak Shah-Zakura road.
Government had approved the Boulevard widening project in 2009 and had directed the concerned authorities to complete the project on fast-track basis. However, the project is yet to be completed.
The next project following suit is the construction of the tunnel on the Mughal Road.
Fourteen years since the Government of India approved its construction, the project is yet to see the light of the day. The project was approved in 2004, when the PDP shared power with Congress in the state. The proposal was for seven-kilometre long tunnel between Zaznar and Chathapani at 3,000 meters altitude on the 230-year-old Mughal road.
However, the work on the project is yet to be started as a result the road remains closed for nearly six months each year.
Similarly, in 2009 authorities started expansion of the Syed Meerak Shah Road from Dalgate to Zakura, primarily for facilitating smooth flow of vehicular movement through congested areas of old city Srinagar.
The widening project for the 10.33 kilometre road estimated at Rs 336.24 crore was aimed to serve as key surface link to old city Srinagar, Hazratbal shrine and the University of Kashmir. However, ten years have gone by but the project is still lingering.
257 militants killed in 2018 is highest in 4 years
New Delhi, Jan 20: Jammu and Kashmir witnessed the killing of 257 militants in 2018 – the highest in four years – by government forces, official figures show.
A total of 213 militants were killed in 2017, 150 in 2016 and 108 in 2015.
While 142 militants were eliminated in anti-militancy operations till August 31, the rest were killed in the remaining four months.
An official told IANS that August witnessed the killing of 25 militants – the highest in a single month in 2018.
Also, 105 militants were arrested and 11 surrendered in 2018. The number arrested in 2017 was 97, 79 in 2016 and 67 in 2015.
Government forces also secured surrendering a higher surrender of militants in 2018, which was almost six times more compared to 2017. Only two militants surrendered in 2017 against one in 2016. No militant surrendered in 2015.
The data further revealed that the number of violent incidents were also at a peak during 2018 – almost one-and-half times more than 279 incidents in 2017. A total of 223 violent incidents were registered in 2016 and 143 in 2015.
The security forces also seized 153 AK rifles in 2018 — a dip from 213 in 2017, data accessed by IANS revealed. The number was 178 in 2016 and 177 in 2015.
An official deployed in internal security in Jammu and Kashmir said AK-47 assault rifles were the preferred weapon of militants.
The official, who did not want to be named, said that over 300 militants, including foreigners, were still active in the Kashmir Valley, especially in south Kashmir, which is the epicentre of militancy for over three years now.
“And these militants have been continuously attempting to radicalize youngsters in the Valley to take up arms and to shed fear of getting killed,” said the official.
“Militants were known to monitor activities of youngsters on social media – Facebook and Twitter — who are inclined to militant activities and hardcore religious activities,” the official added.
Mehbooba among ‘strongest’ CMs of JK: Beg
Srinagar, Jan 20: Senior Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leader Mehboob Beg on Sunday hailed party president Mehbooba Mufti as one of the most consistent and strongest chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir.
Beg, in a statement, said no matter if she is in the government or in the opposition she remained “steadfast”.
“Her politics and conviction finds basis in her ‘pro-people belief’, how she handled the Kathua rape case is a case in-point,” the statement said.
He said that the PDP president resisted the “sinister attempt to disturb and dislodge the tribal community and ensured no politics was played on this issue.”
Beg said: “Mehbooba’s stand was made crystal clear to the all-powerful central government as well, the Home Minister offered unconditional talks, the cases against protestors were withdrawn, the unilateral ceasefire was announced, how can we not appreciate her persisting with pro-people policies and made the BJP agree to matters that were politically inconvenient to them.”
“She took stands very well realizing that she did not have the numbers to dictate terms to the BJP, yet she persisted and since the BJP did not have the intentions to fulfill the terms agreed upon, they had to pull-out,” he said.
He claimed in the statement that the BJP had entered into this coalition by signing on dotted lines, the Agenda of Alliance was a carefully drafted ‘pro-people’ document.
Beg said “it appears that the BJP had no intention to fulfill what they had committed to do, one cannot do much about if somebody intends to cheat and deceive you.”
“We have had people waste historical opportunities. 1996 was a historic opportunity, the government of the day had overwhelming numbers, but did that government dare to take ‘pro-people’ stands? Let history be the judge on that,” he added.