As J&K CM Omar Abdullah and army chief threw the AFSPA ball into the home ministry’s court, sources said the suggestion to lift the ‘disturbed area’ tag originated in the home ministry and was vetted by the cabinet committee on security (CCS) last year.
The proposal to remove the tag was one of the eight points approved by the CCS to help restore peace in the Valley.
Defence minister AK Antony, home minister P Chidambaram and finance minister Pranab Mukherjee are members of the CCS, headed by the PM.
The AFSPA, which gives sweeping powers to the army and central police forces, kicks in only after an area is declared disturbed under this law.
In September 2010, the CCS had vetted the home ministry proposal to “request” the J&K government to “immediately” convene a meeting of the unified command in the state “to review the notification of areas as disturbed areas”.
Since then, Chidambaram had taken up implementation of the CCS decision with Abdullah several times, including in his October 11 meeting. In his interactions with reporters, the minister has emphasised that it was for the CM to weigh the pros and cons of the move as well as the timing.
Officials in the security establishment insist that too much was being made of the army’s reservations, particularly since the army did not have any significant operational presence in the four districts proposed for denotification.
For instance, eight of the nine major encounters in Srinagar this year were handled by the police and central paramilitary forces. Technical assistance from the army was sought in just one case. “If the state police feel they are confident of handling the situation, why should anyone else have an objection?” a security official asked.
State government sources indicated the final order withdrawing the notification of disturbed areas, however, may have to be issued by the Centre rather than the state.