Reiterating its belief that laws like the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) cannot be a permanent feature of governance in Jammu and Kashmir, the People's Democratic Party (PDP) on Wednesday objected to the statement of Army chief Bikram Singh on the subject.
In a statement, PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said the AFSPA had outlived its utility and the state was ready for full restoration of fundamental rights, which were "severely restricted" by such laws.
Mehbooba said, "The people of J&K have repeatedly reaffirmed their faith in the democratic process over the past many years, and it is time that the Indian government responds positively to the growing democratic culture in the state."
She added, "While holding elections and people's participation in them are essential for a democratic polity, democracy in the state will lack vibrancy as long as the civil institutions, judiciary and elected bodies don't feel fully empowered, as in rest of the country."
"AFSPA was enacted at a time when thousands of young people, disillusioned with democratic process that was brazenly subverted in the 1987 elections, were forced to pick up guns. However, now, according to the government's own statistics, there are only a few militants operating in the state.
To win over even the last alienated young person, it is necessary that democracy and its institutions are fully functional and able to address and accommodate other views. We have to respond to an idea with a more creative idea, so that nobody is compelled to pick up a gun or fall to the philosophy of hatred and violence," she said.
Referring to the recommendations made from time to time on the subject, Mehbooba said the special working group appointed by the Prime Minister had recommended rolling back of AFSPA. The PDP had taken up the matter with the PM in January, 2007, in response to which a high-level committee had also been appointed to review the law.
She said the PDP had time and again emphasised that gun and force from either side will not resolve the problem. "Instead, it is democracy, engagement and dialogue that are needed for a permanent settlement of the problem for which a beginning was made with the initiative in 2003. Shrill statements will take us nowhere in restoring the confidence in the peace process and winning the hearts and minds of people," said Mehbooba.