The recent militant attacks in J&K are disturbing, but they must not weaken the resolve to review Afspa
Jammu and Kashmir is beginning to see a familiar turn of events. Just when the PDP-BJP coalition got over the controversy over the release of separatist Masarat Alam, militant attacks are on the increase. There were three attacks in Kashmir on April 6, including the killing of three J&K policemen in Shopian district. These follow fidayeen attacks in Samba and Kathua districts last month. These are seen as attempts to unsettle the new government, create a wedge on security issues between the PDP and the BJP and disrupt the vital tourism season.
Chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed has not had an easy start, having recently faced flak over the preparations for the floods. He is attempting to move political discussions forward by indicating that his government ‘will examine the need for denotifying disturbed areas which have been free from militancy-related incidents’ to enable a phased withdrawal of Armed Forces Special Powers Act from such areas. He has immediately faced criticism in the light of recent attacks and the army has declared that ‘it is not the time to take risks’. We can expect heated debates on the Afspa again with those favouring the status quo prevailing on the grounds that the military needs the instrument in view of the persisting attacks.
Both the state and the Centre should conclude the Afspa review quickly. Mr Sayeed will want to avoid the political damage that his predecessor, Omar Abdullah, incurred while the debate stretched on through his six-year tenure. The Centre must also realise that it needs to take risks and challenge the status quo if it plans to seriously address ‘all outstanding issues of J&K’ that it has committed itself to in the coalition’s alliance document. Recent incidents of militancy are disturbing but they need to be seen in the perspective of levels of past violence. The number of fatalities in violence has dropped from 4,507 in 2001 to 117 in 2012 to 193 in 2014. Such attacks put enormous public pressure on governments, but they must weigh that reality against the enduring alienation in Kashmir that follows from continuing with draconian legislation that permits security forces to arrest and shoot civilians with impunity. The Centre must realise that partially lifting the Afspa will create newer political opportunities in Kashmir.