Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Saturday ruled out any possibility of a presidential assent to Gujarat’s controversial anti-terror Bill but held out a ray of hope for people of J&K and the North-east who want the Centre to tone down the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA).
At his monthly briefing convened to present the home ministry’s report card, Chidambaram said he could not recommend assent to the Gujarat Control of Organised Crime Bill that was passed last month by the assembly without carrying out the changes recommended by his ministry.
“It is simply not possible,” he told reporters, explaining that Gujarat’s anti-terror Bill was in conflict with the last expression of the mind of Parliament.
The home minister said the government was looking at amendments to AFSPA and limiting its application to some areas. “The AFSPA amendments are getting ready,” he said, refusing to divulge details since the Cabinet was yet to approve them.
But ministry officials suggested that amendments to the law — dubbed as “draconian” by human rights activists and government committees alike — would make it more humane by doing away with provisions that give jawans the right to shoot at sight on suspicion.
The law is in force in parts of J&K and the northeast notified by the government as “disturbed areas”. Chidambaram hinted that the number of such districts would be reduced.
“We are also looking at limiting the application of the AFSPA to some areas,” he said. “That (limiting the application) is the goal over a period of time.”
Chidambaram also stood by his assessment that some of West Bengal’s districts had turned into “killing fields” with Naxals managing to retain some “pockets of influence”.
Asked about CPM leader Prakash Karat’s reaction that his description of “killing fields” was too sweeping, the home minister said he hadn’t pointed fingers at anyone yet.
But there are many districts that have become killing fields, he said, pointing that he had based this assessment on information from various sources.