Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah feels the Armed Forces Special Powers Act can be withdrawn from some areas in the state with a rider that the army could step in again if the situation so warranted.
He will soon chair a high-level meeting to review the possible withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act, which may subsequently lead to removal of AFSPA.
“I think the time has come where we can start to objectively look at areas from where the AFSPA can be removed with the understanding that if there is a situation requiring the Army to intervene, we can make a temporary sort of return to that,” Mr. Omar said.
Seeking to reduce the footprint of security personnel in the Valley, Mr. Omar said the state government has started moving back the forces and the recent dismantling of 16 bunkers in Srinagar was a first step.
“We hope to continue until we reach a level where the visible presence is greatly reduced,” he said.
Commenting on opposition to the withdrawal of AFSPA, the Chief Minister said, “No right-thinking person can turn around and tell you that AFSPA should be revoked in one shot. It is not possible at a point where you still have militant encounters and things like that going on.
“The overnight revocation of the AFSPA from the entire state is not possible.”
He, however, said there are areas where the Army has “virtually no presence and virtually no role to play“.
“It is in those areas that we are contemplating withdrawing the Disturbed Areas Act which will then automatically mean that the AFSPA does not apply there,” the Chief Minister said.
He said he has set up two small committees for Srinagar and Jammu respectively comprising Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda and Home Secretary B R Sharma besides Corps Commander of Srinagar-based 15 Corps and Corps Commander of Nagrota-based 16 Corps to review the issue.
“After the visit of US President Barack Obama, I will be sitting down with them reviewing what possibilities are there and then we will move forward and implement them,” Mr. Omar said.
He said he understands the need for a legal framework within which the armed forces have to operate and felt that there are two ways of going about it.
“Either you can make that framework less draconian or you do an objective assessment of those areas where that law is no longer required.”
Giving the example of removal of AFSPA from Greater Imphal, he said, “Initially we might have faced a few problems, after that things stabilised. So what is there to suggest you cannot do the same thing for Greater Srinagar, Greater Anantnag, Greater Baramulla and then as your confidence levels grow, you move further.”