CM opposes amendment in BSF Act
New Delhi, Apr 16: Stressing on “progressively” decreasing the footprints of security forces in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah today said conciliation and dialogue will always remain the best medium for seeking a solution to all contentious issues.
Omar spoke on a variety of issues at the Chief Minister’s conference here, including Indo-Pak relations vis-a-vis Kashmir, withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act and removal of 24 bunkers from Srinagar city in coming months.
He also sought a telephone connection between Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir for strengthening the trade between the two sides.
In his speech, Omar said after three continuous summers of discontent, the State saw a peaceful 2011, which to a great extent, erased the painful memories of two decades of turbulence and unfolded the promise of a new beginning.
“I am hopeful that peace dividends achieved in the year 2011 will continue to percolate to the people, and usher in a new era of peace and development in the State,” he said.
About the policies of the National Conference-Congress government, he said “it has been our firm belief that agitations and confrontations are no means to resolve the issues involving contrary positions. Conciliation and dialogue has, and will always remain, the best medium of seeking solution to all the contentious issues”.
Welcoming the recent talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari, he said “the State has been emphasising on the need for initiating the dialogue process and has welcomed the initiatives taken by the Central Government in this behalf.”
Omar said that as the situation was fast improving, the footprints of security forces need to be decreased progressively so that people can feel the impact of the changed security scenario.
“As many as 12 battalions of BSF and CRPF have been withdrawn from the state since 2009. 24 bunkers are being removed from Srinagar city in the coming months in addition to the 39 bunkers which have already been removed”.
On cross-LoC trade between two sides of Kashmir, Omar said while a number of steps have been taken to ease travel and trade across the LoC, there was a need to further ease it so that the benefits trickle down to trading partners.
“There is a need for restoration of telephonic links between Jammu and Kashmir and PoK and putting in place a proper institutional arrangement by replacing the current barter system of trade which will also address the security concerns”.
He requested Home Minister P Chidambaram to take up the matter with the concerned ministries so that cross-LoC trade can flourish in real terms.
Speaking on the contentious issue of AFSPA, he said he was of the firm belief that the Act had played a useful role in providing much-needed legal protection to the Army and para military forces while dealing with insurgency.
“However, now that there is a distinct change in the security environment in the State, there is a good case for reviewing the continuation of AFSPA. I am not advocating the withdrawal of AFSPA from districts and areas which are still infested with militancy, but a beginning can be made by withdrawing AFSPA from areas and districts which are not affected by the insurgent and terrorist activities.”
Presenting the militancy figures, Omar said there was a constant decline of more than 30 per cent of such incidents as compared to 2010. Against the 488 terrorist-related incidents in the year 2010, there were only 340 such incidents in 2011 and as against 47 civilians killed in 2010, 31 civilians were killed during 2011.
“Strict surveillance of our borders by the Security Forces and their tireless efforts in neutralising terrorists has resulted in considerable reduction in infiltration bids. About 45.26 per cent decline has been registered in Net Infiltration during 2011. The Net Infiltration during 2010 was 95 as against 52 in 2011,” he said.
“Thanks to the cooperation of the people, commitment and professionalism of Security Forces and Jammu and Kashmir Police and adoption of the newly-framed Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) to control serious law and order disturbances, the overall security scenario during the year 2011 has shown remarkable improvement,” he said.
However, there was a word of caution from the Chief Minister, who said even though there has been an improvement in the overall security situation, the threat to peace has not completely vanished.
“I must caution here that the progressive improvement in security situation should not lead us to complacency. We have to continue to maintain constant vigil and alertness and ensure, at the same time, that the fundamental rights and civil liberties guaranteed to our citizens by our Constitution are scrupulously maintained and respected.
“Therefore, while tackling the remnants of militancy with a stern hand, the State Government is committed to a policy of zero tolerance vis-à-vis the infringement of human rights,” he said.
He also referred to the report of Group of Interlocutors appointed by the Centre and urged the Centre to take effective and immediate measures for implementing the recommendations made by them.
The Chief Minister also spoke about Rehabilitation Policy announced in 2010 and said that 1034 applications have been received from the parents and relatives of the prospective returnees under the Policy. “Of these, 67 cases have been recommended in high level committee meetings. A decision on these is required to be taken at the earliest”, he said calling for a mechanism to ensure safe return of these to the State to facilitate their transaction for leading peaceful lives, rejoining the national mainstream and contributing towards peace, prosperity and progress of Jammu and Kashmir and the Country.
Omar said that the coalition Government in the State has been single mindedly pursing the agenda of bringing governance closer to the people to enable them participate in decision making. He referred to panchayat elections conducted peacefully in the State and said that the Government is committed to the empowerment of local self governing institutions. He said process of election to block development councils has been initiated which will be followed by election to district councils.
“Side by side efforts are afoot to hold elections to urban local bodies so as to complete the process of establishing urban and rural self governing institutions across the State”, he added.
The Chief Minister said that after three continuous summers of discontent the State witnessed peaceful 2011 which has unfolded the promises of new beginning. “I am hopeful that peace dividends achieved in the year 2011 will continue to percolate to the people and usher a new year of peace and development in the State”, he said mentioning the cooperation of people in maintaining the tranquility.
Mr Abdullah also underlined the commitment and professionalism of security forces and J&K Police and the adoption of newly framed Standing Operating Procedures (SPOs) to control law and order disturbances. “The overall security scenario during 2011 has shown remarkable improvement and all indices of violence have shown a declined trend. The number of terrorist incidents declined”, he said adding that strict surveillance of borders by the security forces and their tireless efforts in neutralising the terrorists has resulted in considerable reduction in infiltration bids. However, he opposed the amendment to the Sections 4 and 139 of BSF Act 1968 aimed at giving BSF powers of arrest, search and seizure.
The Chief Minister said that Kashmir valley witnessed a record number of tourist arrivals in the year 2011. He said that the number of pilgrims to Shri Amarnath Ji was registered at more than 6.3 lakhs. He said the number of yatris to Mata Vaishno Devi also crossed one crore mark during the last year. He gave credit for this to people of Jammu and Kashmir and also mentioned phenomenal role of various law enforcing agencies. “The peaceful summer also witnessed increased cultural and social activities, reminding us of the tranquillity which prevailed prior to the breakout of turbulence in 90’s and thereafter”, he added and said that even though there has been an improvement in the overall security situation the threat to peace has not completed vanished.
“I must caution that the progressive improvement in the security situation should not lead us to complacency. We have to continue to maintain constant vigil and alertness and ensure, at the same time, that the fundamental rights and civil liberties granted to our citizens by the Constitution are scrupulously maintained and respected. Therefore, while tackling the remnants of militancy with stern hand, the State Government is committed to a policy of zero tolerance viz-a-viz the infringement of human rights”, the Chief Minister asserted.
He said that while the State Police has achieved an enviable level of expertise in handling militancy and terrorist related incidents, it is still in the process of transaction in the handling of law and order situations of the kind now being seen in Jammu and Kashmir. “Five
Battalions have been specially trained for law and order maintenance duties”, he said urging the Centre Government for providing the necessary assistance to further upgrade the skills of the State Police so that it is able to handle law and order situation more effectively and take over the responsibility of law and order gradually.
Underscoring the need for enhancing honorarium of Special Police Officials (SPOs), the Chief Minister said that SPOs have been playing an important role in assisting the Police in fighting militancy in the State. “An SPO is being paid an honorarium of Rs. 3000 per month. Keeping in view their contribution there is a need to enhance their honorarium so as to boost their morale and motivate them for better delivery”, he added.
Omar extended his gratitude to the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh and UPA Chairperson, Mrs. Sonia Gandhi for liberal assistance to the State for holistic development. He also mentioned the assistance provided to the State under PMRP and launch of special industry initiative aiming at providing employability to youth of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Chief Minister complemented the Ministry of Home Affairs for making these conferences an annual event adding that the deliberations and exchange of ideas in these meetings have made a huge difference in making internal security apparatus more effective. He expressed the hope that the deliberations of present conference will prove instrumental in devising a strategy in addressing the issues related to the internal security across the Country.