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A step in the right direction

india Updated: May 29, 2013 01:12 IST

Hindustan Times
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Good news, even if a bit belated, can bring smiles and ignite hopes, especially if it comes from Jammu & Kashmir. State Congress chief Saifuddin Soz's statement that it is time the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) was revoked from parts of the state is one such news.

He was addressing an All India Mahila Congress workers meeting in Srinagar. Soz's statement gains importance as it is the first time the Congress has openly stated willingness to consider revoking the AFSPA. The National Conference, with which the Congress has allied to form the government in the state, has been calling for a rollback of the Act since 2011.

J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has the option of calling the Unified Command Headquarters to take the Army and other intelligence groups into confidence for facilitating such a move. He has assured to take up the matter with the prime minister and home minister at the June 5 internal security meeting in New Delhi.

Though security is still a concern in many parts of the state, especially with incursions and disturbances at the border yet to calm, the state government feels that there are many areas in which the draconian law - as it is often referred to because of the unbridled powers it gives the Indian armed forces - can be revoked.

This is a sentiment that has found resonance with the people of the state and many human rights organisations.

The Act was first invoked in Jammu & Kashmir in 1990 at a time when militancy was at its peak. But with successful elections and greater power given to local bodies, things have changed over the years.

With general elections a year away the chorus for revoking the AFSPA from J&K has gained ground and is expected to be an issue that political parties will take up during their election campaign. Omar Abdullah has been a prominent leader who has openly expressed displeasure with the Act not being revoked by the Centre.

However, irrespective of whether political parties try to gain mileage from the issue or not, there is a strong case for the Centre, and the Army, to look into the request.

However, New Delhi cannot, and should not, take a call on the revoking of the Act depending on the political situation in Pakistan. The government, both at the Centre and the state level, in consultation with the Army, should take measured steps that will both win the confidence of the people and also ensure that peace and stability are maintained and further strengthened.

The partial revoking of the AFSPA from certain areas in J&K will be a step in the right direction. In addition to this, the government should bring development to the state and involve an otherwise disenfranchised youth of J&K to be part of India's growth story.