The Justice JS Verma committee’s recommendation to review armed forces’ impunity in case of sexual violence against women in the garb of the Armed Forces Special Forces Act (AFSPA) has been hailed equally by political parties and civil society groups in Kashmir.
Chief minister Omar Abdullah, who is calling for an all party meet, said, "Parliament will do what it has to but I promise to the people of J&K that we will look at the Verma committee report with all seriousness so that as many as possible are implemented."
Opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) also welcomed the recommendations. "There is no formal invitation (for an all party meet) from the chief minister so let it come formally first. But we think recommendations, if implemented, will make difference on the ground," PDP spokesman Naeem Akhtar said.
Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS), a civil society group whose member met Justice Verma on January 18 with their seven-point recommendations, hailed the suggestion to review AFSPA.
"The state government and all mainstream political parties of J&K need to rise above party lines and lobby for the implementation of the suggestions," KCSDS member Shakeel Qalander said.
The group has apprised Justice Verma of about 900 documented cases of rape and gang rape, with many allegedly perpetrated by security forces in the past two decades.
The committee on Wednesday suggested that sexual offences by armed forces and uniformed men in conflict areas should be brought under ordinary criminal law.
"Justice Verma has rightly suggested that no person, whether in uniform or in civvies, are above law when it comes to abuse of a woman. Now we expect justice in cases of the past two decades, where Indian civil society has been silent all these years," said Qalander adding, "time has come to withdraw AFSPA completely".
Demanding complete withdrawal of the AFSPA, MLA engineer Rasheed said, "Justice Verma report is woman-specific but the chief minister has been promised withdrawal of the AFSPA completely to end impunity to security forces."
Rasheed, while asking New Delhi to enter into a ceasefire with the United Jehad Council, said, “This January 26, India should show magnanimity of a democracy by removing the AFSPA from J&K”.
Of late, Kashmir political parties, including chief minister Omar Abdullah's National Conference, are advocating ending of the AFSPA in the state with the dip in militancy, though the army opposes the idea saying it will affect their operational capabilities while fighting militancy.