Politicking over AFSPA

Politicking over AFSPA
Date: 25 Nov 2011
Politicking over AFSPA

A pliant CM cannot afford to defy his masters in New Delhi

The unseemly controversy on the issue of revocation of Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), generated by the chief minister as a matter of political expediency rather than any genuine concern for the unabated human rights abuses being committed in the troubled state, refuses to die down, though it has taken several turns and twists. Omar Abdullah has been blowing hot and cold in the same breath, asserting on the one hand that he was the boss and he alone can decide on this issue and then leaving the matter to New Delhi. He has been vacillating on this question, as on several other issues of disagreement between him and his masters in New Delhi, shifting his stance, realizing that he is not in a position to defy New Delhi, with whose support and backing he has come to power and without whose support he cannot retain his chair. Initially he voiced for the revocation of the draconian law which arms the armed forces with blanket powers and provides a culture of immunity and which has been recklessly used to shield those guilty of resorting to grave human rights abuses in Jammu and Kashmir. With those in authority in New Delhi, particularly those at the helm in the defence establishment, raising alarm and vehemently opposing any move to even relax the AFSPA, not to speak of its total repeal, Omar Abdullah started talking of withdrawing it from selected areas, mostly those where it has never been enforced. First he tried to assert his right to decide on this question and later shifted his ground by saying that it has to be decided collectively by the Unified Headquarters or by the state and central governments. On several other issues too the chief minister had to beat a hasty retreat. His father and Union minister Farooq Abdullah too has been fuming and fretting by categorically stating that his son is the boss in J&K, which the Abdullah dynasty considers as their inherited fiefdom, and at the same time admitting that no government in the state can survive by defying New Delhi, citing his own bitter experience.

The fact of the matter is that no major policy decision in J&K, even on matters under the purview of the State government, can be taken and implemented without New Delhi’s blessing and help. New Delhi is sarkar mai baap and nothing can move without its consent. If the chief minister is really the boss then what prevents him from deciding about the withdrawal of the Disturbed Areas Act which is the basis on which the AFSPA stands. New Delhi has left everyone in no doubt that even this is beyond the power and authority of the chief minister as it is the prerogative of the State governor. If the chief minister is genuinely concerned with the tyranny of AFSPA then why did he not moved on this issue by implementing the recommendations of the Working Group headed by M.A, Ansari, present Vice President of India, which in its report submitted in January 2007 categorically stated: “Certain laws made operational during the period of militancy (e.g. Armed Forces Special Powers Act, Disturbed Areas Act) impinge on the fundamental rights of and adversely affect the public. They should be reviewed and revoked. Law and order matters should be dealt with, to the maximum extent possible through normal laws.” And these abnormal laws included the notorious Public Safety Act, under which hundreds of persons including the children have been detained and kept in custody without trial, which is a state law and within the purview of the State government to repeal. Clearly, those who owe their position to their masters in New Delhi and can retain it with their support alone, cannot be the masters of their own affairs. They have to bow to the diktats from New Delhi.

(editorial- Kashmir Times-Nov 25, 2011)

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