“The Army never had counter-insurgency as its task for Srinagar district”

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has expressed surprise over “more resistance” from the Army for removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) from certain areas of the State despite assurances that its interests would be protected.

Discussions on partial withdrawal of the AFSPA were an “ongoing process,” Mr. Abdullah told PTI here. “Unfortunately, there is more resistance than I would have liked from the Army for reasons I don't understand. It's a considered decision that the areas that we are looking at for removal of the AFSPA are the areas where we don't require the Army to operate.

“They are not operating on counter-insurgency grid... Unfortunately, the Army never had counter-insurgency as its task for Srinagar district. Right from the beginning, it was first the job of the BSF and the BSF was replaced by the CRPF… why can't that continue?” Mr. Abdullah said.

The Chief Minister said the State government was ready to take into consideration the rightful concerns of the Army.

“We understand the Army has certain concerns regarding their establishments in Badami Bagh [Cantonment area], Sharifabad and Tattu ground [Army camps]. We are saying those areas, we will keep them out of the ambit as they will still qualify for the AFSPA,” he added. Asked whether the State government was seeking sanction for prosecution of Army officers allegedly involved in the fake encounter at Machil in north Kashmir, Mr. Abdullah referred to a recent hearing in the Supreme Court wherein the judges had sought a clear-cut policy from the Army to either prosecute the officers under the Army Act or allow the civil courts to take action.

“What happened in the Supreme Court is a pointer. Of course, if you take recourse to the AFSPA, to say that this matter can't be transferred to the civil court, then you have to try it yourselves.

“You can't take this defence that we will not transfer it to the civil court but we will do anything about it ourselves.

“That means there will be no justice. No system can allow that. So either you transfer it or try the case and deliver the justice yourself. These are the only two options. The option of doing nothing is not available,” he said.

Four unemployed youths were allegedly killed in a fake encounter last year in Machil sector of north Kashmir. The police filed a charge sheet against nine people, including a Colonel and a Major of the Army.