Reflecting widening gap within the political establishment and the army over the partial removal of the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in Kashmir, chief minister Omar Abdullah on Thursday raised his pitch and asserted elected government’s will over the issue saying “the state government has the authority to revoke the law and the winters are right time to go for phased revocation”.
“Any elected state government has the authority (to revoke the law). By that virtue, we have the authority. The authority rests with the governor who would act on the basis of the state government's recommendations,” said defiant Omar at a function in Srinagar.
The chief minister’s hard statement came just a day after chairing the Unified Headquarters meeting in Jammu where the army reiterated its reservation over any withdrawal move on the Act saying the move “can compromise on the security of the state”.
The hawkish stand of Abdullah is obvious from his previous statement a week ago where he described his announcement on partial removal of the AFSPA as “expression of intent and not decision”.
But now the chief minister is making his intentions clear. “A ‘no’ is not an option. I have sought feasible and workable solution on the issued from the army,” reiterated Abdullah in Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital.
Throwing ball in New Delhi’s court, Omar said the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) did discuss the issue. “Union Home Minister (P Chidambaram) has said in recent media interviews. So I don’t think it is anybody's case, least of all the army's, that the state government does not have the authority,” said Omar.
The army is opposed to Omar’s move to partially remove the Act, which provides a cover to personnel during operation in disturbed area in the state, because it seems operational capabilities of the army being compromised.
But Omar is pushing phased removal of the Act on “experimental basis” because winters are setting in Kashmir when militancy touches lowest level of its activities. “Winters obviously gives us a window to consolidate and reorient our deployments and to see how this phased withdrawal is working,” said Omar.
The CM to have the army on board suggested that the two committees set up to finalise the recommendations “make their suggestions known before further discussions”.
Abdullah has asked the Corps Commanders of Jammu and Srinagar Corps as well as Director General of Police Kuldeep Khoda and Home Secretary BR Sharma to hold meetings on the issue of withdrawal of Disturbed Areas Act and hand over their report.
Two core groups comprising Khoda-Sharma, Corps Commanders of 15 Corps and 16 Corps have been set up by the government.