Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Monday knocked on the doors of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and senior central ministers to explain why the army's arguments against partial withdrawal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) did not hold water.
Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah talks to newsmen after meeting home minister P Chidambaram in New Delhi. PTI/Atul Yadav
Abdullah's efforts to build a consensus among members of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) came in the backdrop of army officers in the state refusing to let the law be withdrawn from four districts, a stand that had last week prompted Abdullah to emphasise that "no" was not an option.
Abdullah was milder on Monday after meeting the Prime Minister and home minister P Chidambaram and spoke of the "ample opportunity" to address the concerns of armed forces and go ahead with partial removal of the law.
"Obviously, the effort is to narrow the differences between what we would like to see happening and what the army has so far publicly stated as comfortable to let happen," the chief minister said.
Abdullah refused to divulge the assurances he had received at his meetings with the PM and other CCS members but said the central leaders were "very receptive" to his point of view. Singh had last week said everyone concerned should "sit and objectively discuss" the issue.
The CCS had in September 2010 asked Abdullah to review the districts from where the controversial law that gives sweeping powers to the armed forces could be lifted.
But a high-pitched campaign centered on the fear that lifting AFSPA from four districts of Jammu and Kashmir - where the army does not even operate - would convert them into havens for terrorists has stood in the way.
Government sources indicated that defence minister AK Antony had advised the CM to move ahead only when the army is on board.
It is a "very, very sensitive issue" that needs to be handled in a mature manner, Antony said on Monday, referring to his meeting with Abdullah on Sunday.
A senior army officer, Lt Gen SA Hussain's reported remarks at last week's meeting of the Unified Command in Jammu - cautioning that India would be compelled to grant Jammu and Kashmir independence by 2016 if AFSPA was lifted - has already created complications.