AFSPA amendments likely in next CCS meeting

NEW DELHI : Notwithstanding the opposition from the Army and the Defence Ministry, the amendments to the controversial Armed Forces Special Powers Act, aimed at making it “more humane”, are likely to be placed soon before the highest government body on security issues.

Government sources said the proposal for the amendment, which is strongly backed by Home Minister P Chidambaram, Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and several groups in the Northeast, is expected to be placed before the next meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS).

Through the amendment, it is being proposed that arrest warrants are secured in advance and grievance cells set up to address citizens’ complaints against the armed forces, the sources said.

By amending clause 4 (a) of the controversial Act, the government proposes to abolish the power given to the armed forces which allows them to open fire causing death, they said.

The proposed amendments were submitted before the CCS three months ago but were sent back to Home Ministry for reconsideration following strong opposition from the Defence Ministry. Army says the Act provides it with essential legal protection, a stand backed by Defence Minister A K Antony.

But the Home Ministry, after examination, decided to re-submit the proposed amendment bill to the CCS without any changes. The revised proposal has also incorporated the views of the three interlocutors appointed to find a solution to the Kashmir issue.

AFSPA, often dubbed as “draconian” for the widespread powers it gives to the Army - guarantees that army officers can operate without fear of arrest by civil authorities.

The Defence Ministry’s view, however, is that while these amendments are acceptable in a scenario where the army is called in to aid civil authority - for example, in the case of riots and civil unrest - they are too restrictive in Kashmir and the Northeast where the army has to take on well-trained, heavily-armed fighters, they said.

The Home Minister has often been citing the statement made by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that “he will take steps to replace the AFSPA by a more humane law.”

The Second Administrative Reforms Commission has also recommended replacement of AFSPA. (AGENCIES)


Interlocutors arrive in Jammu

JAMMU : A two-member team of interlocutors today arrived here to meet Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and to assess situation in the mountainous Rajouri and Poonch districts.

As academician Radha Kumar could not come this morning and may join the team tomorrow, veteran and renowned journalist Dilip Padgaonkar along with M M Ansari reached here.

“During our three-day stay in Jammu, we will meet different sections of the people and also visit Rajouri, and Poonch districts to review the situation besides meeting the Chief Minister,” Mr Padgaonkar told reporters on his arrival at Circuit House.

Mr Padgaonkar added that the visit is in context with the Kashmir situation but refused to comment on the present political situation in state.

Sources said that interlocutors would interact with some security officials followed by a meeting with the Chief Minister and proceed to Poonch tomorrow morning to meet representatives of various political parties.

They would leave for Rajouri on December 19 and return to Jammu on December 20 and meet different delegations before leaving for Srinagar on December 21, sources added.

The team would leave for Capital on December 23 and would submit their review report to Union Home Minister P Chidambaram. (AGENCIES)


Geelani, Omar under house arrest in Srinagar

Srinagar : Chairmen of both the factions of the Hurriyat Conference (HC) Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Moulvi Omar Farooq are under house arrest in the summer capital.

Official sources said it was a precautionary measure.

A spokesman of the breakaway HC Aiyaz Akbar said a large number of security force and state police personnel remained deployed outside the Hyderpora residence of Mr Geelani, who has been put under house arrest for the past 100 days.

He said Mr Geelani was not being allowed to offer Friday prayers in the mosque during his house arrest. Even the chairman of the amalgam was not allowed to join the Eid-ul-Zuha prayers, he alleged.

Chairman of another faction of HC Mirwaiz has also been put under house arrest in his Nigeen house.

On Wednesday Mirwaiz has shifted from his Nigeen house historic Mirwaiz Manzil in the Rajouri Kadal area of down town.

However, late last night, police and security forces raided the Rajouri Kadal and evicted him from there. He was later dropped at his Nigeen house where he was put under house arrest.

A number of Awami Action Committee (AAC) headed by him, who were also present in the Mirwaiz Manzil, were also arrested and lodged in different police stations in down town and Shehar-e- Khas(SeK).

Mirwaiz had shifted his base from Nageen to Rajouri Kadal to ensure that he is able to offer congregational Friday prayers

At historic Jamia Masjid as authorities have not allowed him to offer prayers for 13 consecutive Fridays.

He had urged people to defy any restrictions on Friday and offer prayers in Jamia Masjid.


We are to fulfil mandate, not to pass judgement: Interlocutors

JAMMU : Kashmir interlocutors today rubbished a media report that they had criticised the Omar Abdullah government and self-rule, saying they were here to fulfil their mandate and not to pass judgements.

“We are here to fulfil our mandate and not to pass judgements. No such words have been been said by me,” Kashmir interlocutor and eminent journalist Dileep Padgaonkar told reporters as the team arrived here on their third visit to the state.

Flanked by another interlocutor and former Central Information Commissioner M M Ansari, he said, “I have not said self-rule is better than autonomy. No judgement has been passed on either of the two.”

His remarks came against the backdrop of reports that he had praised the contents of self-rule document.

Padgaonkar was quoted as having described the Omar Abdullah government as inefficient and insensitive and also saying that not even 30 per cent of Rs 6,000 crores plan allocation to the state by the Centre was spent though the current financial year was drawing to a close.

“Some quotes and sentences which have been attributed to me in the interview taken by journalist Saeed Naqvi are not true,” he said, adding, “I have never said the word better.”

There are two documents - one of autonomy of National Conference and another of self-rule of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), he said.

“We are going to ask them and all the people to come up with detailed suggestions on how we could go about and arrive at a political settlement,” he said.

“We are trying to evolve a broad based political settlement in Jammu and Kashmir keeping in view aspirations of the people of three regions as well as various communities,” Padgaonkar said.

Referring to the setting up of “broad contours” for a political settlement to the decades-old issue, he said, “We will visit various areas of Jammu region. We will start with Rajouri and Poonch border districts from tomorrow and hold talks with various sections of the people.”

The interlocutors would also meet the Chief Minister.

“As far as the previous two visits are concerned, we have already submitted recommendations to the Government of India,” he said.

He said to facilitate the dialogue process, there was need to implement confidence building measures and both the Centre and the state government were “sympathetically looking into them.”

After the visit, the interlocutors are likely to submit the “broad contours” for a political settlement to the Kashmir issue.

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