Chief Minister Omar Abdullah's proposal to withdraw the Armed Forces Special Powers Act from two parts of the Kashmir Valley is a welcome step towards making J&K a normal place to live in. The debate on whether AFSPA has fulfilled its purpose can go on. But the Central government data, which show that J&K is more peaceful than many ‘perfectly peaceful' States (“Kashmir: why AFSPA must go,” Oct. 29), suggest that the war to restore peace has been won to some extent. The people of J&K have a right to live in a free environment. Although the withdrawal of AFSPA may carry some risks, the step is worth taking. It will convince the people of the State that the country cares for them.
For Kashmiris like me, the withdrawal of AFSPA would be a dream come true! The Army has unleashed a reign of terror in Kashmir. Although it has become more moderate in recent years, what it has done is unforgettable.
No doubt, the Valley is calmer but it is not peaceful. Thousands of our children are languishing in jails. It is time the Kashmir issue was settled permanently.
The statistics of crime-related deaths clearly shows that the State has a better civilian safety record. It would be very appropriate for the Centre to consider early rollback of the Army's presence in the State. It will also encourage the people of J&K to join the mainstream of social development and resist the influence of extremist elements.
The Army is not on a picnic. It is there to carry out the task of securing the national borders, stop infiltrations from across the LoC and counter all militant, terrorist and insurgent violence within the State. The Army can do its job only if it is given special powers and legal protection. AFSPA must stay in J&K.
Col. C.V. Venugopalan (retd.),
Reducing army presence would amount to extending the enemies from across the border a warm welcome. The move would be especially wrong in the context of the U.S. deciding to withdraw from Afghanistan.
Sukhbir Singh Kundu,
Keywords: Jammu and Kashmir issue