While criticising estranged partner Congress and sworn rival People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for lack of support for revocation of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and National Conference working president Omar Abdullah on Saturday said senior Congress leader and the then home minister P Chidambaram had always supported him on the issue during the UPA regime.
“I can’t say if Congress supported me on this, but Mr Chidambaram has certainly helped me a lot.
If there were other leaders like him in the Cabinet Committee on Security at that time, we would have been able to take the issue of repealing AFSPA much ahead,” Abdullah told reporters on sidelines of a rally in Ganderbal in central Kashmir.
Chidambaram had on Friday welcomed the army’s decision to grant life sentence to personnel in the Machil fake encounter case in Jammu and Kashmir, and termed the AFSPA an “obnoxious law… [that] has no place in a modern and civilised country”. Omar said that while Chidambaram failed to convince his cabinet colleagues at the Centre, he [Omar] could not convince his cabinet colleagues from Congress in the state.
Speaking with HT earlier, Omar said failing to get the AFSPA revoked was his “biggest regret”. “I know there has been 70% reduction in militancy. The then home minister (Chidambaram) was supporting the revocation… Mr Chidambaram is a very intelligent man. He is not a man given to emotional outbursts. He won’t support [something] just like that.” He noted, “We have taken 40 bunkers out of Srinagar, and it has remained peaceful.”
Omar, however, added that no government at the Centre was in a mood to revoke the law: “Those who opposed the revocation first said that in 2008 and 2010 there were street agitations... In 2011 they feared there would be agitations again. Then in 2012 they said America is shifting out of Afghanistan, it’s a very dangerous time, and militancy would be a major threat... Mark my word now ISIS will become the reason for not withdrawing AFSPA. They will say, ‘ISIS flag is visible in Kashmir, we can’t remove AFSPA!’”
About the PDP, he remarked, “When I talked about revocation of AFSPA, the PDP president said that you cannot do it as such and will have to take the advice of the (armed) forces. Whatever they (PDP) say today, let them; but they did not support us that time… Had they extended their complete support to us, perhaps we could have talked on a unified platform and achieved something. But they thought that its credit would go to the NC and they would be at loss, so they opposed it.”
About his efforts, he explained: “I say this that I have not been able to do it. It is not something which is hidden. I tried my best… But if not in this government, then in the next one we will do it.” PTI inputs